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10.31.2005

Fear? Not

Turn On the Light Tonight - by John Fischer

This much I know: Regardless of where you land on the trick-or-treating thing, if there is anything believers should not participate in today, it's not trick-or-treating: It's fear. Christians have no business being afraid today or any day. We worship the God of the universe who is over all powers and authorities and rulers on earth, above it or “below” it. If we as Christians show fear to the world, it comes as a disgrace to God. What does it say about the reality of God in our lives when we allow fear to motivate us?

[excerpted from the PurposeDriven devotional for today, 10/31/2005]

Review: COMES A HORSEMAN

It's CSI:Christian Book Association. It's an ensemble cast. It's a tense mystery, following a Norse murderer and his pack of hybrid wolfdogs from one beheaded victim to the next. It's a techo-thriller, unveiling machinery and techniques for gathering crime scene evidence and tracking the serial killer who has brought all of our players together for this story.

Robert Liparulo's Comes A Horseman (copyright 2005, WestBow Press) is full of what makes a marketable novel - a very bad situation fills the lives of people going through real enough problems without having to go through this, too. The book opens with Brady Moore spending some time with his young son Zach, both still grieving the death of Brady's wife, Zach's mom. A faith in God is hinted at, but there's nowhere to go with it - perhaps God has better things to do than protect these two, than to preserve the love of their lives. Questions and doubts are already a part of the picture, when another murder, another serial killer's mark, is reported, and Moore must now leave to find the bad guy - packing his suitcase, bringing along his doubts and questions.

His partner is already on the scene. Alicia Wagner gets to wear the "Robocop suit", digitizing the crime scene, playing up feminist tendencies in front of the male-dominated local police. Meanwhile, the murderous hunter with the Norse-like accent and three hybrid killer dogs is leaving this house and migrating to his next victim, an unsuspecting boy - he's feeling mercy towards the child even as he's planning to kill him quickly and painlessly. The story continues cross-country, across the inner emotional ties of the characters, as the reader discovers over the pages what's really important: what is going on here?

Today's thriller isn't as concerned with whodunit as it is with whydunit - we know who the killer is, but what motivates him? Why does he do what he does? How are his victims predestined for gruesome ends, and what drives him into this place of death and brutality? And we're concerned not so much with the clues to the case as we are with the clues into the lives of the protagonists. Why do they do what they do? How will Moore ultimately deal with the death of his wife, and how will he connect with his also-grieving son? How will Wagner and the others fit into this, as friends and as co-workers with unique insights to the machinery of the investigation and unique insights into the life of their friend? Liparulo does a good job with the prose, the mood and the tempo to make us want to find those answers, want to keep reading, want to keep caring.

Comes A Horseman works on the level of a thriller more than as an expose' of the human condition. But there's enough of the humanity of the characters to hold the attention, and the story drives itself. The film rights have already been sold, and I'm looking forward to the movie version and what it might be able to do with the imagery and characterizations. I recommend this book for the coming cold of winter - a cup of coffee, a gentle fire, and a few extra lights on in the house while you read on those chilly November evenings.

10.30.2005

Worship

I don't remember a year when I've appreciated more the fact that we got an extra hour of sleep last night. Thank you, - I won't be so charitable in the spring when that hour's taken back by the time-continuity beauracracy, but for now, it was very pleasant.

Mac Lake preached this morning on worship as part of the "Living Beyond Myself" series. I've heard sermons and conversations where the stories sound stilted and impersonal, but that's not a problem Mac has. I was right with him as he went through a few different ways to look at worship and how it moves us beyond ourselves. I was especially drawn into Psalm 13, just "trusting the faithfulness of God". Worship takes us to a different level of trust, a different level of patience in the midst of stress and pressure. No matter what's going on, what's pressing in, what's coming against us as people trying to live the life of Christ in our context right now - no matter what, God's still there, and worthy of our praise.

I was tracking this morning, Mac. Thanks for that.

10.29.2005

Gamecocks 16 - Volunteers 15

Great game, one where the team that shot itself in the foot the fewest times ended up winning in the end. South Carolina had never won in Knoxville, making this win just that much nicer. Great way to end a very pleasant day, if I do say so myself.

Sermonizing

To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. You rescue those who are humble, but you humiliate the proud.
- Psalm 18:25-27, nlt
There's something about this passage that struck me enough a couple of years ago to write this question in the margin of my bible: "My character determines how I see God?"

I notice the way people interact, and in particular I notice how folks judge each other. That's right, I judge those who judge. I find myself looking for the right right thing or the right wrong thing in people who I feel are judgmental and unmerciful. I do the very thing I see others doing; my character flaw at least lays a path for itself by looking at its own reflection in others. A gossip can tell you all about the people who gossip (they hang out together - where else do you get the latest news?). Someone wondering about divorce will look for "wise counsel" from others who've gone through divorce (why not look for someone with a good marriage? I don't get it). Folks finding fault with the church will hang out with other folks finding fault with the church, until there's a full powwow of people who've got a collective angst with no truly positive outcome in sight.

So if I'm having a problem with something, maybe I'm feeding the problem by living the problem. If I think God's being harsh, maybe it's because I'm being harsh. If I feel like God is absent, maybe it's me who's been moving away. If, on the other hand, I begin to feel His quiet reassurance, maybe it's due to His hand in my life to make me calm and confident by His grace. If I find Him wise and His guidance sure, perhaps it is another gift that He is drawing me to Himself and I'm finally listening.

Best Site Entrypage

Donald Miller's entry page keeps it simple, and properly stylish.

Saturday Morning Soccer

Week three of the soccer season, and Cam's team is 3-0 - undefeated and untamed! We've got a few more photos posted on our fotopage, action and inaction shots of the same "delicate" daughter from yesterday's post. It's fun to watch them chase the ball, and as much fun watching them learn positions, learn little things and fundamentals about how to play, and then of course the winning thing is pretty cool. She's having a ball (sorry, I shoulda warned about that one), and we're proud of her working so hard with her coaches and teammates.

10.28.2005

Perks

  • MSNBC.com - The Gospel According to Anne Rice

    Shhh - guess what I got in the mail today. Shhh... "book reviewing" has it's privileges.

  • Delicate

    Photo Friday: Delicate

    Delicate

    10.27.2005

    L O L

    Funniest post I've read in a lo-o-o-o-ong time is right here. Don't hurt yourself.

    Packed

    This place was packed at lunchtime. I got here a little after the rush, luckily, and found a parking spot from someone just leaving to head back to work. But they were parked all along the side road, anywhere they could to get in, grab some lunch, maybe enjoy a good book before spending the rest of the afternoon behind a desk or dealing with patients. The light classical music from the ceiling is very soothing, adding a soundtrack to my day. It's not as busy now, not as crowded, not as difficult to find a place to park.

    I'm across from a hospital, and a bank, and a podiatrist's office. There was a group of seniors in here earlier, enjoying an early afternoon out with friends from the looks and sounds of it. Right now, there's a group of nursing students with matching scrubs in the back, tables pushed together for a study session, debriefing from their day across the street. There's a conversation behind me - sounds like a job interview, with the interviewer having just moved to the area, and the interviewee explaining the intricacies of tailgate traffic for the weekend's football games. A family of three just left, latte's and pastries in hand, climbing back into the Mercedes parked beside the Chevy pick-up.

    Just got a fresh iced chai and a couple of croissants. Not sure if I spelled that right, not sure if I care. Just enjoying my soundtrack and the ambience of a place that welcomes customers, busy or not. Also, sitting here and coveting the top-down Miata that just pulled away from the other side of that pick-up.

    Commuting in the Will of God

    this is an audio post - click to play

    TT5: Comic Strips

    Last week I started posting the Thursday Top Five, and the response was whelming - not overwhelming, but noticeable nonetheless. This week, another list - this time, posting my top five comic strips from your daily newspaper. Feel free to play along in the comments, or leave a link to your own blog if you rip this off for your site.

    5) Dilbert - anyone working in an office knows what a "cube farm" is
    4) Peanuts - classic, all the way back to before I was born; still funny, still poignant, even with nothing new in the last few years
    3) Get Fuzzy - never in the funnies here in Columbia, found this one online; makes me wish our pets could talk, and have social disorders we could discuss over dinner
    2) Bloom County - Doonesbury, but funny; can't stand that our local paper doesn't carry the new version - aarrgghh
    1) Calvin & Hobbes - I want to be like Calvin when I grow up, but with Hobbes' charm

    10.26.2005

    Rest & Rehabilitation

    Our small group isn't meeting tonight, so there's a much-needed lull in our schedule that frees us to relax a little, catch our breath, maybe just maybe get to bed early. With the school play and rehearsals and the extra work there, Vicki's swamped. And with work and church, I feel the burn of having just a wee bit too much on my plate, too. But tonight we'll be able to sit in the same room for more than a couple of minutes. We might even, oh my goodness, get to make a pot of coffee and enjoy a conversation. Maybe, just maybe.

    "But if we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then find out that we are still sinners? Has Christ led us into sin? Of course not!"
    - Gal 2:17, nlt

    That verse jumps out at me today, because I've been in a "thought I was getting it right but find that there's much more to learn" mode for an extended period of time. That's the feel I get from Paul here, wondering if we miss it, or if we think we're going rightly, and find out there's more to it - is this Jesus' fault? Or is it just part of the process, part of the journey as we keep working out our salvation along the way? We've been following Christ, going in a direction, and when we think we've arrived - well, we shouldn't think we're "there" because there's more there still ahead. In context Paul talks about confronting Peter. Where Peter is trying to hold onto some of the old steretypes and prejudices, Paul pushes him towards the new way to live out the kingdom through Christ by the grace of God.

    I don't usually have a problem with confrontation. If both sides are given the benefit of the doubt, and if both sides are looking for the other's mutual benefit, then let's discuss what we will and learn together. In the end, that's what we're doing - going one way, hoping by faith that it's right, and looking for correct correction when warranted. Growing in Christ is like that - we never fully arrive, life just being lived with adjustments here and adjustments there. Keep moving forward, stay close to the Father, trust that He knows what He's doing and won't lead us astray.

    So, where's your mind meandering this midweek, hmmmm?

    Real Right Now

    Are You Real? - Kallistos Ware

    The isolated individual is not a real person. A real person is one who lives in and for others. And the more personal relationships we form with others, the more we truly realize ourselves as persons. It has even been said that there can be no true person unless there are two, entering into communication with one another.

    This idea of openness to others could be summed up under the word love. By love, I don’t mean merely an emotional feeling, but a fundamental attitude. In its deepest sense, love is the life, the energy, of God in us. We are not truly personal as long as we are turned in on ourselves, isolated from others. We only become personal if we face other persons, and relate to them.

    [But who to relate to? And when, and how? - from today's Daily Dig]

    10.25.2005

    Worth?


    My blog is worth $33,307.86.
    How much is your blog worth?

    Motivated

    Why do we do the things we do? More specifically, why do I do the things I do, or sign up for what I sign up for, or take on what I take on? On my drive into the office this morning, I counted through five things that need my serious attention right now - and oh yeah, the family, kids, soccer practice, helping with laundry, and then some. I've got a busy life right now, and my wife has a busy life right now, and my brother has a busy life right now, and you probably have a busy life right now. Why do we do what we do?

    There's the motivation of pleasing people. I know that I've got some of that in me, not necessarily in the normal bad way where I judge my self-worth by what others think. My shortcoming there is more along the lines of taking care of something so you won't have to worry about it. I'll take on a task so it'll get done and you can focus on something else. Part of it is that I would rather get rid of the things I know I can do, leaving you as the interested other party free to do what I can't help you with. Make sense?

    Of course there's financial gain. Staying employed is a big motivator for most of us, so we try to do a good job, try to do as much extra as we can without being overburdened. But the stress comes when projects and people start to press against us in different directions. That's probably my biggest blockage, and it takes time to unravel the strands, get things done, meet the proper deadlines and move on. Time, I have to keep reminding myself that this too shall pass.

    I think there's a pressure to "be all we can be" by showing how mature we are or how dedicated we are. I've got two main jobs at church, and I have no room to take on more. That's ok - "just say no" should have a prominent spot in anyone's phraseology. In the "this too shall pass" category, the pressures aren't so bad, and there are time limits and constraints that will move the tasks forward as long as I keep things prioritized and moving, right?

    Being a good husband and father motivates me, so I hope I'm doing okay on that front. They get caught up in my whirlwind, too, and I get caught up in theirs. That's what families do - swirl around together through schedules and bedtimes and bathtimes and homework and practice and breakfast and all that jazz. But we're in this together - and if there's any thread through all of these motivations, it's that together is a good thing. Being with people, working through challenges and starting and ending projects and getting through crises and sharing the spoils of victory - all that is much better together.

    Hermits have no motivation. That's why they're hermits. And why they don't bathe. But I digress.

    7:14am

    I'm a programmer/analyst, meaning that my brain works on a different wiring scheme than most folks. I woke up this morning thinking about work, and while showering I solved a problem or two. Now I'm trying to connect remotely from the house to make sure things are okay before even getting to the office. It's the way we're wired, I think.

    The kids are coming downstairs for breakfast, warm and fresh from the toaster. The coffee's brewed and waiting for travel mugs and flavored creamer. It's chilly this morning, 39.9F on Weatherbug, so the kids are putting on long pants and wondering whether they should bring out their heavy coats. Um, no, not yet.

    Mornings. Gotta love 'em.

    10.24.2005

    Country Lane

    The breeze came brisquely down the lane, rustling the leaves and making its presence known with that sound and the chill that it brought to the morning jog. One foot in front of the other, constantly pushing forward, left foot, right foot, pumping the legs, burning the backs of his thighs. He loved autumn, loved the smells of early pre-sunrise mornings, loved running on this country lane.

    He ran, and he prayed. This was time to himself, and time to be with the Father. His prayers were breathy, always out loud and never "in my mind", he thought as he inhaled, exhaled, one foot, other foot. The chill woke up his eyes, the pores on his face; and his prayers woke up his mind, engaged the conversation on a very personal, very intentional level. Lord, thank You for my wife - thank You for her love - her commitment. Keep running, keep pushing. Thank You for her heart, Lord, for her yearning to make You proud, to bring You joy. Thank You for that about her. Make a right at the corner, head down the dirt road for another mile. And thank You, Lord, for our kids. They're so great, so aware, so alive - inhale, exhale - and so into wanting to be their own person, Lord. Help me be a good dad, Father - help me be like You, give them room to breathe and find themselves - heavy steps, feeling the last mile more than usual, pushing through the wall.

    Thank You, Lord, for giving me this beautiful morning - feeling the sharp pain in his left leg, wondering if he needs new shoes, one foot, other foot, half-mile to the next turn back to the house. It's so peaceful, so warm in Your love, so wonderful to hear the wind, Your voice. Snap - the crack in his knee echoed into his conversation. The pain on his left side blinded him, forced him to veer into the brush, over a ditch, falling headlong, still praying - Oh, Lord - save me! Protect me! You are mighty O Lord! Aaaaaahhhh!...

    To the very end, no silent prayers. But now, yes, silence. His head hit an oak trunk, making a dull thud, a deep gash forming. The snap of his knee had brought pain; now the tree brought peace. Silence on the country lane, yet awake on another road, another path now. Still praying, out loud and constant, to the Father who protected him, and now holds him closer still. They run together. The conversation is still a part of the morning. One foot, then the other, pushing another mile down the road.

    Shoulda Known

    "What are you doing at the door, darlin'?"
    "Waiting to see if Squint wants in."
    "The cat's fine out there on the step."
    "She wants in." - opening the door
    "Just leave her alone, honey."
    "It's okay, Dad" - shutting the door as the cat comes in the house - "Cat to girl sensitation." - said with that little cocked-head-rolling-eyes look every little girl knows instinctively

    10.23.2005

    "Painful"

    "Why is it so hard?"
    "You know what to do. It's not hard; it's just painful."

    - tonight's episode of Grey's Anatomy
    That is probably the best counseling advice anyone could get. Most of the time, we know what to do. We know how to do it. We know what it'll cost, how it'll be received. And then, we don't want to do it because it'll hurt too much, because the price is too high, because the end won't satisfy the need in our minds.

    It's not hard; it's just painful. But you know what to do.

    Same Bat Channel

    My wife rocks on toast. She needed to stop at the store after church, using a gift card to buy something for herself. But she also bought Batman Begins for me - how cool is that?

    This morning's Ministry Fair at church was neat, too. And we had lunch with friends at the new CW Tap Room right next to the theater. Now some football and a nap - is this a great country or what?

    10.22.2005

    Yaaaawwn

  • Diner coffee with Todd this morning before sunrise
  • Cammi's team won their soccer match this morning, 4-1
  • USC 35, Vanderbilt 28
  • Home from the tailgating and an unnecessary search for un-lost keys
  • Nine o'clock - time for kids' baths

    It's been a long day, but a good one. I've been yawning most of it, and I've probably had more coffee in a 15-hr period than I've had in a long time. But it's been good, and I'm looking forward to getting off the computer, reading a little, catching the news and maybe the opening of SNL, and then snoring. Snoring a lot.

    I was going to write something profound. But just like that - I posted a list, I yawned a couple of times, and it was gone. That's just like profound things, not sticking around long enough to be recognized. It would've been a doozy, but you'll just have to trust me on that one. G'night.

  • Caffeinated Weaponry

  • CNN.com - Hot coffee thwarts carjacking

    Just another of the amazing benefits of good coffee.

  • 10.21.2005

    Broken, Grateful

    "...how to be broken, yet faithful... broken and grateful..."
    - Sara Groves, "What I Thought I Wanted"
    While paying attention to the lives of others - there's too much going on in my own life, I know, but I'm not as interested in much of it - I see brokenness and healing, trials and personal struggle. It's like life moves forward, for better or for worse. But in Christ, even the worst in for the better. Struggle makes us, well, struggle - makes us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, gives us a glimpse of who we really are, what we really believe about God and His ways. When everything's going well, it's happening then, too - but it's not as loud, not as obtrusive as the rough spots of life.

    It seems that when we as Christians start doing something we'd deem "worthwhile", then something comes alongside and knocks us off our bike. "Must be doing something right, since the devil's working so hard against us", we say. But I'm beginning to think the devil gets more credit than he's due. We can't do anything positive and godly without the grace and intervention of the Spirit in and through our lives - what if what happens to us, the struggle and the trial, is a reflection of our inability to trust in Him? Nothing is going to overtake us without an escape route - why would "He who began a good work in you" allow the whole thing to derail, allow the devil to kick you while you're on a high?

    Maybe God's will is something deeper than our plans and dreams. Maybe His plans and purposes have to do with our humility and holiness. Maybe success in the kingdom really is losing your life. "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?" - maybe the answer is another question,"what if you gain the whole world in truly, honestly and selflessly losing your soul?" If that's the case, then it shouldn't surprise us that there's tribulation in the midst of supposed success. God wants us "broken yet faithful... broken and grateful". We are the contradictions that point to the Father... something like that. Judging my faithfulness and worth to God by looking at my circumstances, my success or lack thereof, can't be right.
    "GOD is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you. Don't be intimidated. Don't worry."
    - Deuteronomy 31:8, msg
    I don't think we know the truth of that until we are in a place where worry would be natural, where intimidation might overtake our night. Because in the midst of that, He's still right there...

    Sushi & Smallville

    Last night was a pleasantly relaxing evening. My lovely wife has so much on her plate: school musical with weeknight rehearsals, legal hassles to take care of in the extended family, a major shipping issue with a lightboard - and still she made time to stop at Publix and pick up some fresh sushi from the deli. Very nice. Trace had been home for a second day with swimmer's ear - we think he got it from showertime, enjoying the way the water feels as you hold you head to the spritz and hear/feel the water. He crashed on the couch around 7pm for about ninety minutes. Cam-bug and I had the house and the rest of the night to ourselves - perfect for me getting to watch Smallville, with special guest Aquaman on last night's episode.

    Tonight, we want steak for dinner, and then a quiet evening at home. She wants to do some shopping, and I'm going to encourage her to have fun with that. Tomorrow, 9am soccer match and noon tailgating time before the Gamecocks play Vanderbilt at 3:30pm. Saturday evening will be another relax time I hope, and Sunday will be full with a Ministry Fair at church in the morning and fantasy football for the afternoon.

    Life is good. And relatively slow right now. Either I can worry about how it's bound to accelerate soon, or I can enjoy it for what it is. Leaning towards the latter, if that's alright.

    Retro

    Photo Friday - Retro

    10.20.2005

    Curiouser & Curiouser

    TT5: Disney Movies

    I'm going to start a post-habit of "top fives", the Thursday Top Five (TT5), at least for right now. So here's my list of top-five Disney movies. I'm home with my son today (continued fever from an ear infection), and we might pop a couple of these DVDs in at some point.

    5) Fantasia/Fantasia2000 - a soundtrack with pictures
    4) Strongest Man In The World - gotta love Kurt Russell back in the day
    3) Tarzan - great animation and story, and Phil Collins to boot
    2) Toy Story - first one was the best
    1) The Incredibles - great story, fun action, 3d animation is second to got film-making

    That's my top five off the top of my head - did I leave any out? Got favorites?

    10.19.2005

    Wednesday Night @ Church

    This is for any who might surf through this afternoon while looking for for the Wednesday evening schedule:
    Here's your discussion starter: "Imagine that there's no hell - would you still be here tonite?" - talk amongst yourselves.
    Hope all goes well!

    Salvation

    What is it about traffic that makes me want to audioblog? I think it's because there's all these people stuck in the same predicament, and still none of us are paying attention.

    this is an audio post - click to play

    10.18.2005

    Substance?

    There's something that's thrown around for why a business finds success or not: "location, location, location". If your store is in a good location, you've got a chance; if your church builds in the right location, you'll attract the right people. But is the internet and technology in general making "location" less of an issue? And if so, will we change the mantra to "content, content, content"? Just a sparked thought from Shawn's blog and podcast this morning.

    For some reason, it's difficult for Christians collectively to "think", so I'm not sure that "content, content, content" will be the next big thing. Asking questions, looking at difficult answers and contradictions - these are seen as disruptive and unnecessary in too many circles today. I know, that's really general, and all generalizations are false - but here's the deal: if you have a doubt or a question, who do you go to? Who do you ask? Will you be snubbed, or have someone question your own faith? Or will you be given tools to learn, to grow, to overcome doubt and ask even better questions moving forward? I know a few people who would join in the conversation with me and not be offended or feel like they'd have to "fix me" - but the majority of folks would be put off by most of what I've found to be true and honest and radically different about Jesus, God, the scriptures.

    Being able to post my thoughts on the internet, being able to take "location" out of the equation, doesn't change the presumption I have that very few people would still be comfortable going deeper, growing in Christ. I don't have a monopoly on any of this, but I do have thoughts and dreams and ideas that don't fit into the proper mold that makes up most church doctrine. And that scares people - scares me, too, but I don't run away. Well, anyway, "ramble, ramble, ramble" might be the new thing instead of content. But at least let our Christianity have some content, some deep substance to it - that's not afraid of the doubt, that in fact grows in the midst of the journey and struggle, you know?

    Of course, my own pride and self-centeredness comes out when I talk about "others" like that. It's not an us vs. them thing, just a thing.

    10.17.2005

    May 2006

    Nice.

    Monday Questionnaire

    Just something the spark some thought on a gorgeously chilly Monday. Leave a comment with your answers, or answer on your blog and leave the URL.

    1) What do you like most about FALL? What do you like least?
    It's my favorite time of year. I like bringing out sweaters, or wearing shortsleeves when it's a little chilly. Least - I don't like it when the temps get back up into the 90s around here and all those sweaters make me sweat.
    2) What is your favorite cold weather meal?
    Chili - pumpkin pie - Thanksgiving dinner
    3) What is your favorite cold weather passtime?
    football, reading, mountain driving
    4) What is your favorite holiday TV special?
    Thanksgiving football - what else?
    5) BONUS: What are you going to get me for Christmas?
    Peace and goodwill to all men - and a Best Buy gift card? Please?

    Thanks for playing, and for your continued support.

    10.16.2005

    Review: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO AMERICA

    "Religion and politics" - "Separation of church and state" - start any conversation around any of these attention-grabbers and you're in for a long evening. Blood pressure goes up, voice volume rises, and everyone's right except the other side of the fence. In The Gospel According to America (copyright 2005, Westminster John Knox Press), David Dark not only tackles politics and religion. He also brings a high bar to the discussion, setting the tone for civility and humility in the midst of conflicting mindsets.

    I'm reminded of one of the opening scenes in Gladiator, when Marcus Aurelius is trying to explain "Rome" to Maximus: "There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile." That's the feel of this book, because Dark is looking for a higher perspective of what America was intended to be, can still be if Christians will live Christ-like. There was a subversiveness to Christ's life and teaching - "love your enemies" and "blessed are the peacemakers" are radical statements in the midst of the oppression of Rome and of the Jewish leadership of the day. The dream of America has appeared to be in response to the oppression, established as a place of freedom, escaping tyranny and overcoming evil. The "gospel", the good news, is that the kingdom of God is at hand, and that we can live kingdom principles in a real way that will change lives and impact society. And somehow, that's a part of how America came to exist.

    And that's the dream of America that gets lost when we think too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3) and begin to think of ourselves as no longer "learners of truth", but as "owners of truth". That's Dark's thesis as I understand it: America loses itself when it thinks it has found itself, when it thinks there is no more room for improvement or for learning or for growing in righteousness. Seeing ourselves as the best of the best and needing to help others be as "best" as we are, we lose sight of the fact that we still have to strive for something better and beyond.
    "... the better part of American valor might be a prudential, well-learned skepticism concerning our well-laid plans. American ambition is at its best when it goes to the trouble of daring to doubt itself. We have to be at least occasionally receptive to the notion that we ourselves might sometimes be the prospering wicked of whom the Hebrew prophets speak. If we're not, we only appropriate biblical phrases (usually taken out of context) to somehow christen our already made-up minds and surround ourselves (and our listeners) with a biblical-sounding aura" (pp. 9-10).
    Dark embarks on a journey through American Pop Culture to prove his point, taking our best authors and filmmakers and storytellers as the ones who really "get it" when thinking about and writing about who we are as a nation. Seemingly, instead of paying attention to ourselves in this phenomena, we are still involved in a "groupthink" that blinds us to the truth about who we are:
    "A culture of groupthink will cultivate its own institutional belief structure (principality, power, team spirit) and our ability to think and see clearly will often fall victim to its persuasiveness. Neither Rod Serling nor the apostle Paul stands alone in their warnings of atmospheres in which honest questions provoke outrage and testimony that fails to fall in sync with the herd is viewed with angry suspicion... What becomes of the general welfare? Who watches the watchers?" (p. 153)
    I've thoroughly enjoyed questioning and pondering alongside David Dark in this book, and I've had conversations already that have been tinted by the thinking herein. As a matter of fact, I've got a friend who's going to borrow this book next. In the midst of all the conversation over politics and religion, we're better together when we open ourselves to the questions and the doubts and the answers that point to who we really are, who God really is among us.

    Slightly Off

    It's been a weird Sunday so far, but in a good way. I woke up way early this morning - on the weekend, "way early" only happens when I need to go to the bathroom. I laid back down for about an hour after that, getting up again at 6:30am when the dawg needed to go outside. Our son was already up, downstairs playing his DS. He never gets up early, so that was weird. We made breakfast, I got ready to head to church early, our daughter got up to join brother downstairs, and I guess everything was more or less "normal" at that point.

    But at the theater, it just seemed a little subdued. Maybe that's a reflection of everyone missing Papa Frank; maybe it's just the result of everyone feeling the pressure and release of a long week. There were problems with the video this morning - we've been going for over a year and it's never had issues like the problems this morning with the message. But folks weren't swayed. I mean, it was frustrating, but there wasn't a collective walking-out that could've happened and might've even been justified. That says alot about the character and growth of the folks in the seats.

    Left the theater, picked up lunch and some AA-batteries at Eckerd's, and now we're just hanging tight until it's time to leave for Cammi's birthday party. Maybe the planet's tilted a little extra one way or the other. No big.

    UPDATE: Photos from the skating party; the planet's definitely a bit warped.

    10.15.2005

    Responsiblity

    Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. - Ephesians 6:4

    Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. - Colossians 3:21

    Meme Saturday

    It's a pretty day, a restful day, a post-soccer-game day - so I'm not going to think too hard if that's alright with you. Here are a couple of Saturday Memes to fill in some content - form over substance today.

    Question Of The Day
    Writing utensil - Do you have a preferred writing utensil? What happens if someone borrows it but doesn't bring it back?
    My favorite writing utensil is probably the one I have in my pocket at any given moment. When I reach for it and it's there, no problem. Keeping it means that I've enjoyed using it, that it works and feels right. Most of the time I do have pens in my pocket - but when it's not there, I'm thinking who took it, who kept it, where the heck is my pen? Like right now - I took my pens out of my pocket, laying them down on the counter with my wallet and keys. If I needed one right now, that's where I'd go - even if there's a pen or pencil closer. That's probably a bit compulsive, huh?

    Saturday Slant
    Which super hero or heroine do you identify with most? Who would you most like to see leap from the comic book pages to the silver screen? Why that character? How do you identify with him or her? And, lastly, how would you like to see that character treated in film?
    I like to think that I've got aspects of Batman - with no real powers but doing what he does the best he can - and the Flash - only one power, but it's a really cool superpower. I tend to look at the deep thinkers, those guys with flaws and emotional or philosophical baggage - those are the guys I want to sympathize with and emulate in helping others beyond the shortcomings. I'd like to see the Batman and Spiderman franchises continue to put out good, deep stories. I think there's a screen adaptation of Flash coming - the old TV show wasn't bad, and if this can build on Batman and the upcoming Superman projects to be something worth paying $7 to see, that would be cool. A decent Justice League movie would be really cool, combine a few storylines here and there.

    10.14.2005

    Doodling Deep


    That's my mental state. Sitting by a tree. By a pond, or a lake, a few ripples. Breeze. Grass and a few flowers on the bank. Mountains across the horizon. Watching, listening, thinking, praying.

    Why did I draw Junior Asperagus' hat on my head?

    Conspicuous

    Photo Friday: Conspicuous

    Traffic

    this is an audio post - click to play

    10.13.2005

    "Remembering the W"

    Good post from our senior pastor, following yesterday's memorial service for Frank.

    Book Blitz Break

    Three book reviews in three days - whew. I don't want to shortchange books/authors by rushing through the rest of the week just to fill in my "week". So I'll post another book review this weekend, try to post two more before the end of the month, and be more or less caught up on my stack o' books heading into November. One thing that stands out to me is the people I "meet" doing this. Even though I posted a less than stellar review of one of these books, the publicist appreciated my honesty and still wanted to help me help her, so she passed me a list of upcoming titles to see what might interest me. That was a really encouraging exchange, so be on the look out for a new one on the life of CS Lewis and a leadership book focused on how ideas can be passed quickly and exponentially in the right conditions (thanks, Sarah!).

    One of the verses I've got pinned on my corkboard is Psalm 50:14-15 - "What I want is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High. Trust Me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give Me glory." This morning, with a full plate of to-do's, it resonates with me as a promise. Give Him thanks, live out my vows, trust Him in all of this - and He will rescue, and I will bring Him glory. Ultimately, His "rescue" of me is for His own glory, and the stuff of life is to ultimately lead to a life that honors Him. I want to live that out today, every day. What would that look like for me today?

    Honestly, I'd rather do that today than push my way through "my vow" of a book review every day this week. Where can my life bring Him glory? That's enough to chew on for now...

    Nice

    MP3 Podcast page for Mars Hill in Seattle - scroll down and get the one labeled Pastor Mark hosts KGNW "Live in Seattle - 09.15.2005". Download it - takeaway lines for me:
  • "someone needs to extend the right hand of fellowship to the jaw"
  • "... when my daughter wants to get married, this guy'll have to go through testing, theological discsussion, arm-wrestling - if he beats me he can't marry my daughter because I might have to take him down later on"

    Nice.

  • Buttonage

    I'm adding this Seacoast Blog Button - Seacoast Church Blog - to my sidebar. It's cool that people are trying to push the envelope a little, see what the technology will do for a community. My meeting the other day in Charleston went well: I'll be getting in touch with all the campus pastors, finding a "Rick" at their site to head up the campus blogs. It's extra work, but really not that much, and again it's cool to see how the technology can be used. People want to do the right thing for the right reasons, and that's cool, too.

    Am I overusing the whole "cool" thing? Cool.

    10.12.2005

    Cold in Here?

  • CNN.com - Heating bills, oil expected to rise

    I'm making plans right now: buying more sweaters, more sweatpants, more thick socks, and more winter throws from those little expensive catalogs that fill our mailbox from Eddie Bauer and LL Bean. The gas logs will be used often, since it warms all three floors more than adequately. The temperature might sit on 65 all winter, and we'll burn dollar bills instead of heating, since it'll be cheaper that way.

  • Review: YOU!

    Pastor Ed Young has written a book to recapture a sense of real self-esteem and properly placed self-worth. Unfortunately, YOU! (copyright 2005, Howard Publishing Company) feels more like a sermon series that moves one powerpoint slide too long to really hold the congregation's attention. If someone needs this book to find a way out of self-loathing depression, let them skip to chapter ten, p. 127 - where the truths of scripture, when balanced in context with a real focus on the Lord, are laid out pretty plain and clear. The rest of the work leading to that point falls short in book form. There's a deeper book in there somewhere, and I was hoping for more.

    My first thought, while reading the introduction and first chapters, was that the title and cover art will probably not grab the interest of the people who would benefit from this type of encouragement. Instead, if this book caters to those who already think too highly of themselves or place too much value on Me/Myself/I will find in this book something for YOU to make more of YOU then YOU really should be doing. I know folks who need to be able to learn that God loves them, that He values and appreciates them as a part of His creation, as His workmanship.

    But there are some inconsistencies that bothered me. One of them is the use of sermon bulletpoints: I always abhor all alliteration, and when chapter one speaks of the Treadmills of Style, Status and Success, it was too much for me. Another place where it just felt mish-mashed for me was in making the point that God wants to use us, dsiplay us for His glory. After writing about how those three paths for finding value will leave one still insecure and feeling unloved (style, status and success do not work - he's right in putting that in print), there's another illustration later on of what we would do with a priceless work of art. "... would you keep that painting buried in the basement covered in cheesecloth? No! You'd hang that painting in the most prominent area of your home so it could be enjoyed by everyone who saw it" (p. 31). But wouldn't that be somewhere close to the style/status/success thing we're trying to avoid? A third type of inconsistency for me was the under-usage of scripture - not that the Bible is left out, but that it's not a bigger part of the discussion and presentation from the beginning.

    That's just me - I'm being picky, I know, and I apologize. I wanted to like this book, to have it rise above where I just knew it would be going. We live in a feel good society that already thinks it's all about YOU. But as I wrote earlier, I know people who need this book, those self-aggrandizing and those self-hating - I just think they need it written in a different way. Young's statement that the biggest question we're asking in life is "Do I matter to anyone?" (p. 13) is probably too narrow, feeds too much on the self-centered selfishness that's at the root of what we do wrong in this world. While the advice is good, it's just that: advice, to be taken or not taken. There's no weight beyond the alliteration and storytelling. What if we'd been able to dig together a little more into biblical stories of David and Moses, maybe followed their journeys of discovery and self-worth in the eyes of God.

    Final recommendation: if YOU are drawn to the title YOU, the YOU probably don't need to buy this book. If however, you feel like you don't matter and everyone including God has passed you by, then pick this book for a good week of reading, taking the time in reading to also dive into the scriptures and the stories there of people being valued beyond themselves by the God who loves you deeply, too.

    10.11.2005

    Review: PROVOCATIVE FAITH

    Matthew Paul Turner is one of those writers who can write in dialogue form. I love a good conversation, with questions and stretching hypotheticals, and finding someone to have those conversations with is rough. But his book Provocative Faith (copyright 2005, Revel Publishing), while being decidedly one-sided since I'm not so sure he heard my witty remarks or skeptical questions in return to his prose while reading, is a book that feels like a Starbucks conversation. And that's not a bad thing, unless people look at you funny for talking to a book.

    Turner's memoirs, the story of his journey of faith, challenged me on many of the same levels. Basically, asking yourself why you believe what you believe, how you got to this point in your life, how any of this makes sense or has any meaning - that's the journey Turner outlines for the reader. His own demons and shortcomings took him through all the nuances of forgiveness and repentance: "But for me, even though I knew Jesus had freed me from my sin, my misunderstanding of freedom in Christ restrained me from truly experiencing the liberty that Jesus offers to each of us. I think this is true for many people of faith. If we truly want to experience Jesus to the fullest and live extraordinarily, though, we must pursue complete freedom" (p. 37). Finding that complete freedom leads one to a provocative faith, one that impacts the people and world around us.

    The narrative turns from Turner's journey through sin and finding freedom to anecdotes of life that point out the genuine value of real love, of "joy as a lifestyle", of healing and the real move of the Spirit in lives of faith. The fresh perspective brought here is from one who understands he is still imperfect, still working through the process, still discovering fresh and new things about God, still maturing and growing through the trials and the victories. I appreciate that his prose has a weightiness without taking itself/himself to seriously, and it's almost never presumptuous or insincere. Like I said, I get the feeling that we've had this conversation over latte's at the coffeeshop, and we've both learned from the other.

    My only drawback is that this book made me think thoughts that Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell had already brought to the fore. If you want to read something a little lighter and a little more general than Bell's book, this is the one to spend some time in this week. Turner has a place on my shelf: books that have been fun, that have challenged, that I can pass along to just about anyone.

    10.10.2005

    1 Blog, 2 Blog, Red Blog, Blue Blog

    I'm going to drive to Mt. Pleasant tomorrow to meet with Shawn & Karen, talking about a direction for blogging in the context of church, ministries, vision for communication. Seacoast is a multi-site church, with nine campuse around South Carolina and Georgia, and blogs might be one way to interact at the local and then also at the wider-spread community.

    It makes me think about why I do this, why I blog and journal and share whatever's on my mind with the world. I've kept a notebook since high school - something college-ruled, wire-bound, constantly keeping up with my schedule and to-do lists with pen and paper. The online thing was a natural extension of that - I still have a notebook for keeping lists at work, and I still keep a small notebook for the stuff that doesn't make it to "public". Where I stay pretty open and loose with my private and public life, there's still some stuff that I just need to process without anyone else's interference, thankyouverymuch.

    Anyway, writing here is a release for me - a place to share my heart and mind, a place for some feedback and interaction with anyone else paying attention, a place to be goofy and be serious, often in the same post. It's a wonderful way to just write - writers write; practice practice practice - and find my voice as a writer and as a reader. One of the questions I'm asking in light of all this is how formal does a church/ministry blog need to be, as opposed to a personal website? Does every ministry need one, and does there need to be a central design/site/purpose behind what's posted? What parameters or guidelines can be put into place that still allow a freedom to be creative? Is it a place to cast vision only, or a place for finding vision together somehow through the interaction of comments? Is it a brochure of upcoming events, an archive of events past, or a mix of both with a touch of personal group history thrown in to keep it interesting?

    How can something that, for me at least, is fairly intimate and vulnerable become a viable tool for others on a more practical and public communications scale?

    Demographics

    Sparked while listening to Josh Harris on the Covenant Life Church podcast: How do you reach out to "the unchurched"? Once someone starts getting involved in church, when do they change from "unchurched" to being "churched"? If they then become "churched", do you then stop trying to reach them, since your target audience is the "unchurched" and they now belong to the "churched" demographic? What about "once churched, always churched"?

    "Everybody wants to go to heaven,
    But nobody wants to die."

    - David Crowder Band, A Collision

    Review: PRACTITIONERS

    In the book Practitioners (copyright 2005, Regal Books), Greg Russinger and Alex Field let us in on a conversation, a dialogue in mostly prose form. My only interaction with some of the voices within - Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Dan Kimball, Anna Pelkey and others - has been a couple of face-to-face meetings and through their online presence. The proverbial fly-on-the-wall would have had a great seat in the midst of the questions and answers and then better questions that were flowing from the Soliton gatherings upon which this work was based. I proverbially envy that fly.

    I admit that I was this close (picture my fingers making the little "this close" sign) to putting this book down when I got to the first page asking me to draw my thoughts. I didn't want to find a pen, didn't want to doodle while reading in my comfortable wingback by the fireplace, so I closed the book. Later, heading to bed, I took the book upstairs to keep reading on the post-doodle-your-thoughts page. On my nightstand was a crayon, and I made a leap of faith into a book that asks the reader to draw, to think, to pray, to stretch into new contortions of the way faith can work out in community with each other. I doodled, and entered into the conversation. Or rather, it left me wanting to be that proverbial fly again, wanting to join in those former chats or start some new ones here and now.

    In reading Luke 7 and the story of the girl washing Jesus' feet with her hair as the leaders gawk and wonder what's going on, my mind was opened to the way I "see people" - "Do you see this woman?" is such a deep question: "In Jesus, we see the raw recognition of her human value come to the forefront and the rebellion of love challenge the systems of moral judgment that haunt the human heart, as well as confront church policy that unknowingly ousts the broken for fear that those with wealth would exit the doors" (p. 40). There are too many folks pointing the finger of judgment, saying that new movements and emerging ideas are lacking in biblical foundations. This book has made me once again look at favorite passages with new eyes, showing a certain depth that's going unnoticed, a certain love for the scriptural narrative that is wonderful on all kinds of levels. Instead of a lack of Bible, there's a love for the Bible that will not let us take it for granted.

    Dialogue on missional prayer, pondering story and the visual aspects of learning and communicating, a wonderful chapter on movies and the impact of culture on the human story - and that's just halfway through the book. Covering topics much like a conversation would, chasing bunnies and coming back to a common thread, the book winds its way through to Dan Kimball's experience with stained glass, which speaks to my own journey, too: "I sat there in the chapel for a long time. As I did, I watched the sun come through the window, I saw the stories on the stained glass, and I examined my heart, putting it all into perspective... God chooses us as art, and in this sense we are all broken pieces of stained glass, and He has chosen us for this particular time" (p. 207). I think it resonates with me because I want my life to be more beautiful, a better story, more impacting on the lives of others around me. As a "practitioner", we can have this conversation, at least changing and challenging ourselves.

    [quotes from Practitioners, © 2005 Edited by Greg Russinger & Alex Field. Published by Regal Books, www.regalbooks.com. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

    10.09.2005

    Book Week

    Well, time to bite the bullet and post some reviews. I've had a great reading week, but it's been busy all over, too. I'm hoping to post a review per day for this next week, starting tomorrow (I cheated, it's up already!). But if I don't make my own challenge, if I fall short of my own goals, please don't hold it against me. I try.

    Thank you for your continued support.

    Sunday Mourning

    It's overcast and grey this morning. I slept okay last night, but dreamt alot, felt like I woke up slowly, swimming up through the depths. A friend passed away this past week, and this morning will be the first time the church gets together since. It will be different without him, and yet he'll still be very much on our minds. I didn't know him well, just his smile and warmth and propensity for Harleys and a full handshake. I'll miss him, still, and look forward to seeing him again.

    "The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety." - Job 5:11

    "... provide for those who grieve in Zion —
    to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
    the oil of gladness
    instead of mourning,
    and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
    They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the LORD
    for the display of his splendor." - Isaiah 61:3


    "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." - Matthew 5:4

    "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." - Romans 12:15

    10.08.2005

    Eight Years Ago...

    ... we were getting up way too early in the morning for a scheduled c-section. Our daughter was born almost before the rest of the family arrived in the waiting room. We knew she was going to be a she, but hadn't told anyone else. On my side of the family there hadn't been a girl-child for a few generations, so this was big news.


    She's such a big girl now, tall and lanky and just right in every way. She's slightly spoiled, but in a good way. And she's very sensitive to others, something you can't really teach but you can shape and model.

    Happy birthday, Cameron. Smile purty.

    10.07.2005

    David's Prayer

    Everyone's getting into the "what's up with prayer?" act. Here's David, the Cubicle Rev:
    Recently, on account of a change in jobs I had gotten into financial troubles to the point where I was behind on every bill. Every time my father asked me how things were going I’d tell things were fine. They weren’t fine, but I could not bring myself to be honest with him and heaven forbid ask for help. I did not want to give up the appearance of being a strong and capable person who can take care of himself. Of course things hit the fan leaving me with no choice except to ask for help. I will never forget my dad’s expression when he picked me up. He was hurt and could only say, ”Why did you lie to me?” Because I did not want to look bad to my father. I could not give up appearing to be manly in front of my father. How often do we do that with God? Henri Nouwen in his great book “With Open Hands” compared this an old woman being taken to a hospital who held tightly onto a coin out of fear that if she lost the coin she’d lose everything. Christ through his actions taught a completely different model. The night of his arrest he went off to pray and was so distraught he asked God to take the cup from him and sweated blood. So how was Jesus feeling at that point? He had no problem with giving up his coin and showing his heavenly father the real Him. It wasn’t a sin for Jesus to be honest before the father. Open up before God. It improved a relationship with my earthly father. How much more so with my heavenly one?

    Five

    Photo Friday - Five

    10.06.2005

    Lonely @ the Front

    I only know a few people who have XM Radio receivers. My dad has a Roady2 in his pick-up, and my brother has one in his Suburban. My boss has one in his family's Pathfinder, and there's mine in the CRV. I've heard secondhand about other people knowing other people, but I really don't know how popular it is or isn't here in SC. We're trend-setters - well, no, not really. But at least we can talk amongst ourselves about something we all have, something we understand a little, something we enjoy. It's difficult to talk to someone who doesn't have satellite radio about satellite radio - if you don't have one, you don't know the differences that made us want one and cause our enjoyment over AM/FM today.

    There will be others later, as time goes on - but for now, I've got basically four people who know what I'm talking about when I start talking about how cool it was for my daughter to call Kenny at the Animal Farm on XMKids, request a song, get her name on the air, talking with the real announcer, talking about her birthday and would he play her song. No one else heard it - no one will come to her and say, "I heard you on the radio this morning!" because she wasn't on one of the local pop/country/mix/CCM channels.

    Because she's a trendsetter, along with my son and I, along with those few friends who've bought into the whole satellite radio thing. And I've got to be proactive, teach her that being the first one isn't so bad. But it is a bit lonely at the front of the line.

    Jocelyn's Prayer

    Here's another addition to the thoughts on prayer, this time from Jocelyn:
    Saying "Can we change God" might be a little harsh or bold, for God is unchanging. However changing God's plans or his mind, yes.


    Consider this passage from Celebration of Discipline:

    "In our efforts to pray it is easy for us to be defeated right at the outset because we have been taught that everything in the universe is already set, and so things cannot be changed. And if things cannot be changed, why pray? We may gloomoly feel this way, but the Bible does not teach that. The Bible pray-ers prayed as if their prayers could and would make an objective difference. The apostle Paul glady announces that we are 'collaborers with God', that is, we are working with God to determine the outcome of events (1 Cor. 3:9). It is Stoicism that demands a closed universe not the Bible.

    "Many people who emphasize acquiescence and resignation to the way things are as 'the will of God' are actually closer to Epictetus than to Christ. Moses prayed boldly because he believed his prayers could change things, even God's mind. In fact, the Bible stresses so forcefully the openess of our universe that, in an anthropomorphism hard for modern ears, it speaks of God constatnly changing his mind in accord with his unchanging love (see Exod 32:14, Jon. 3:10)

    "... Perhaps the most astonishing characteristic of Jesus' praying is that when he prayed for others he never concluded by saying 'if it be thy will.' Nor did the apostles or prophets when they were praying for others. They obviously believed that that they knew what the will of God was before they prayed the prayer of faith. They were so immersed in the Holy Spirit that when they encountered a specific situation, they knew what should be done. Their praying was so positive that it often took the form of a direct authoritative command: 'Walk,' 'Be well,' 'Stand up.' I saw that when praying for others there was evidently no room for indecisive, tentative, half-hoping, 'if it be thy will' prayers.

    "There is of course, a proper time and place to pray, 'if it be thy will.' ... In the prayer of guidance it is the greatest yearning of our hearts to know the will of God.... And then in the prayer of relinquishment, [when] we are committed to letting go..."
    - Foster, p.35-37

    Therefore, like he said, if we are so immersed in the Holy Spirit, we will know what the will or heart of God is. Then we will be able to pray to change things, to even remind God of his compassion and mercy, as Moses often did for the Isrealites, or pray for healing or deliverance for others... when we are working with God.
    Can I throw one thing out before it's asked: no, I don't think Foster is talking about an "open theism", where God doesn't yet know the future or makes decisions that He has not already foreseen. Rather, I've said before that I think predestination, where there still some decisions to be made, and foreknowledge, where an infinite Someone already knows from the standpoint of eternity, are two sides of the same coin. I don't think it's contradictory. Rather, as things have unfolded, God's actions have certain human components where the right people at the right time have stood up and joined in that work - and God's been able to say, "I knew you'd do that"....

    10.05.2005

    Untitled

    this is an audio post - click to play

    Caron's Prayer

    Already the submissions are pouring in. Here's Caron's spark on prayer:
    What is prayer to me? Prayer is so many things, I feel intimidated by the question! Not being in a very philosophical mood right now means I am leaning toward a bullet-point list.

  • Prayer is a time of refreshment: I can always tell the quality of my prayer time by the depth of my refreshment. No matter how painful the prayer, I feel relieved when I am finished pouring everything out to the Lord.

  • Prayer is my greatest comfort: One of my best prayer experiences ever was a short period of time when I was exhausted by grief as my dear one lay dying. I was incapable of prayer at times and I relied on the Holy Spirit to tell God what I needed to tell Him. I remember one moment in particular that to this day I can only explain by saying I felt Jesus touch me. While I don’t want that kind of grief again, I would love to have that feeling every day, every moment of every day.

  • Prayer is my hot line: How exciting to have someone who WANTS to hear it all! There is nothing I can hide, so I can say things to the Lord I cannot or dare not say to anyone on earth. He knows it all! How liberating to say the words out loud – to let loose with the joy, the heart ache, the deepest fears, the worst guilt!

  • Prayer is my gratitude check: When I am grumbling or when I feel no one appreciates me, I stop myself and tell God how grateful I am that he sent his son to die on the cross for me. I tell Jesus how grateful I am that he gave his life for mine. This readjusts my attitude in short order.

  • Prayer is my humility monitor: What am I praying for? Didn’t I just pray for someone else’s marriage? Praise God when mine is going OK. Didn’t I just pray for someone’s cancer treatment? Praise God that we’re in good health.
  • 10.04.2005

    Prayer

    Jeremy had a good idea - what about a "guest blogging topic" for anyone who might want to delve further into something. So here's a TOPIC - what is PRAYER to you? Leave a comment, or email me with your essay/post.

    "Does prayer change God? And what is at stake in how we answer that question?" I got this question in an email today, and it made me think: the more important thing might be how God would answer that question, not us. I don't know that prayer necessarily "changes" God, but it changes us. I was reading something the other day about how prayer changes us into the answer to that prayer - prepares us to be used for that for which we're praying. Grace comes from the Spirit somehow, enabling and empowering us for His use.

    Before I start worrying about how prayer might change God or change God's plans or change God's mind, I need to contemplate how prayer might instead work to change me. Maybe it's not too much of a stretch to consider that we become the prayer - we become the tangible expression of God's will on this planet. I wish this had been my idea - from conversations recorded in the book - and in this context it looks like it makes sense. Just a thought.

    Some Love

    My buddy Todd has rediscovered Blogger. Look him up over here, and show a brother some love.

    Video Latte'

    Here's a comment & "guest post" from Cindy - check it out!
    Rick, I posted about "Taylor" not long ago, too. But if you like the song, you MUST see the home-made video. Some listeners to the radio station I work for actually made a video, using Kristen's song. The link to the video is in my post - Hope you like it as much as I did! :)

    10.03.2005

    Next Week: Book Blitz

    Why do I have "Blue Moon" going through my mind right now, and why do I feel like I'm writing copy for a local car dealership commercial or something?

    Anyway - FYI, I'm taking a little blogging break (and am still open to receiving essays from the faithful few who romp through from time to time to post as "guest bloggers"!) to catch up on my reading. Then next week, a review per day - lots of good books that have stacked up too long on my nightstand (per my lovely wife), and I'm hoping a couple of them might spark your interest, too. Here's my list right now, in no particular order for posting next week:

  • PRACTITIONERS, Greg Russinger & Alex Field, eds.
  • PROVOCATIVE FAITH, Matthew Paul Turner
  • COMES A HORSEMAN, Robert Liparulo
  • YOU!, Ed Young, Jr.
  • THROUGH PAINTED DESERTS, Donald Miller
  • THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO AMERICA, David Dark
  • PREACHING REIMAGINED, Doug Pagitt

    Now, an evening of reading and recuperating from a stomach flu/bug. Joy joy.

  • 10.02.2005

    Game of Tag

    Wasn't I supposed to be reading and not blogging so much this week? :)

    Tagged by Cubicle Reverend: Welcome to the fall 2005 edition of Getting to Know Your Friends. If you are reading this consider yourself tagged. What you are supposed to do is copy this and change all the answers so they apply to you, and then make sure a bunch of others follow your lead - tag them! The theory is that you will learn a lot of little things about your friends, if you did not know them already.

    1. What time did you get up this morning? 7:00am

    2. Diamonds or pearls? diamonds

    3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Valiant

    4. What is your favorite TV show? Smallville

    5. What did you have for breakfast? Coffee

    6. What is your middle name? Richard

    7. What is your favorite cuisine? Southern

    8. What foods do you dislike? Greens

    9. What are your favorite Potato chips? White Cheddar Pringles

    10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Looking for Lucky - Hootie & the Blowfish; A Collision - David Crowder Band; Amusing - Chris Rice

    11. What kind of car do you drive? 1999 Honda CRV

    12. Favorite sandwich? Chicken Salad

    14. Favorite item of clothing? Sweaters

    15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? San Francisco, CA; Londan, UK

    16. What color is your bathroom? Greenish - freshly painted this summer

    17. Favorite brand of clothing? Hanes

    18. Where would you retire to? Mountains

    19. Favorite time of day? When I get home from work

    20. What was your most memorable birthday? 37th (short-term memory works best)

    21. Where were you born? Hickory, NC

    22. Favorite sport to watch? Football

    23. Least favorite sport to watch? Gymnastics

    24. Coke or Pepsi? Coke

    25. Are you a morning person or night owl? Yes, generally

    26. What is your shoe size? 12

    27. Do you have any pets? one dawg, two cats, one gerbil (down from two this time last week)

    28. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with your family and friends? small groups are actually meeting for a second week - who'da thunk?

    29. What did you want to be when you were little? Programmer

    30. What were you meant to be doing today? Today - church, email, lose @ fantasy football

    31. What book are you currently reading? Practitioners - Greg Russinger; Gospel According To America - David Dark; Provocative Faith - Matthew Paul Turner

    32. What is your favorite color? Navy Blue

    33. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Oatmeal Cookie Chunk

    34. Red or white wine? Got sweet tea?

    35. Single or Married? Married, loving it

    Caffeinated Love

    Someone came to my blog with this Yahoo! search, and I found this neat post on - worth clicking through to the streaming audio. I think I'm going to make a fresh pot tonight here, in Kristin Chenoweth's honor.
    I used to be the kind of girl
    Who'd run when love rushed toward her.
    Till finally a voice whispered, “Love can be yours,
    If you step up to the counter and order."

    It's Next Week Already?

    Had a really nice morning at church, seeing folks after a long week of small groups and getting ducks in a row. Some ducks have needed help getting in the row properly, but I'm encouraged that everyone's working together, watching for what God's got in store. Now Week Two kicks off on our 40 Days of Community adventure. My unofficial tally is 240+ in small groups last week for our campus, and I'm hoping that'll edge closer to 300 this second week.

    Let me throw this out real quick: it's not about the numbers. Lots of churches and organizations measure growth or success by numbers. In my mind, numbers will go up because of real growth, but those numbers can be overinflated reflections of something that might not be that successful in the first place. Real growth will draw people, but might also draw persecution, conflict, confrontation. So when I say I'd like to see X number of folks, I think I'm more encouraged to see people trying to connect, having a good time together, and opening opportunities to grow in community. It's like the number reflects what can happen, the potential for something to happen, more than it's a reason to really pat ourselves on the back yet. Real growth might be something that happens in spite of the numbers, not necessarily because of them.

    Tunnels

    This is the new stuffed puppy, Tunnels. At least this one is house-broken, I hope.

    10.01.2005

    Wrestling

    Taking me up on the request for guest essays, here's a piece from Jaime (J.), thinking about how we impact, or don't impact, the people around us - "The whole idea of what sort of influence I am on others and what sort of influence I would like to be had been floating around in my mind for a few days."
    I have been thinking lately about how little what other people see of us actually reflects what we truly are. (How is that for a vague, cryptic, beginning sentence?) I still had these thoughts on my mind when I went to see the free wrestling show hosted by our local nursing home on Sunday.

    I am not really a fan of wrestling. I have watched a couple of live shows, but would never watch on TV. I enjoy the reaction of the audience too much to ever be satisfied with just watching the wrestlers fake it on the TBS Superstation. I need to hear the shouts from the crowd proclaiming, “You SUCK!” and “Tear ‘im a new one!” I especially like it when such polite, seemingly mild-mannered folks lose it and start cursing at the loudest shout they can muster.

    It is always so simple to tell the bad guys from the heroes. During Sunday’s match, the villains would always enter and exit the stage to music by “heavy” bands like Metallica. The good guys were always cool, smooth, and less aggressive using songs by Nelly as their theme music.

    Of course, the most obvious way to tell the good from the bad is by the act given by the players. The bad guys always harass the audience, thus garnering themselves a volatile reaction; offering me the part of the show I find most entertaining.

    These wrestlers travel from town to town, manipulating their act everywhere they go. They are actors to the utmost, and since they throw in a little violence with that, it seems most of us approve. It is a safe form of violence, after all.

    Watching this show made me think about the impression we give to others with which we share and offer exchange to in our daily lives. Our lives seem so massive to us, but really we leave only tiny smudges on the other people we interact with.

    Such a little slice of what makes me who I truly am is ever out there for others to see and feel. Lofty thoughts and great ideas are difficult to witness if they are not shared. Feelings are hard to measure if they are not shown. I hope that little smudge I leave on the people I come in contact with for that little slice of day they get to see me is a positive smudge.