Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Que pasa?

I had a great birthday weekend. Marcie's gift was amazing, even though the Cubs lost. Just being at Wrigley feels like home. Rockford was a blast. We got to spend quite a bit of time with my family, and spent most of Sunday with the Bookers. They're awesome. We talked, caught up, golfed, and ate a lot. It had been awhile. It was certainly refreshing to be able to just hang out and spend time with some really close friends. It is a beautiful thing, to have friends who love us. We ate at Dos Reales in Champaign on the way home, and they sang happy birthday to me in Spanish and put a 10 pound sombrero on my head (I had no idea those things were so heavy). It was a great birthday. I always love to spend my birthday with the people I love, and there are so many of them...more than I realize. And to those who do it so well, thank you for loving me.

In other news, I started reading Franny and Zooey last night, and could hardly put it down. I read 93 pages in the first sitting. It's excellent. I really connect with Salinger as a writer for some reason. Maybe it's because he seems to be able to put all my character flaws and tendencies into his characters in a way that makes reading his stuff seem very familiar. Anyway, some of you know that the first time I read Catcher in the Rye, I shaved my beard. I don't know if something that drastic is pending for this one, but it sure is good.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Indians Game!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Defending a Rock Star

Last Friday night (5/12), John Stossel did one of his 20/20 "Top Ten Things that Everybody Thinks is True But I Wholeheartedly Disagree With" (or whatever they're called) specials. I know he's just providing counterpoints, but his antagonistic style disturbs me and he sort of drives me nuts. But alas, that's not why I'm writing.

I'm writing because he basically attacked Bono in his special for seeking federal aid to Africa. Stossel argued that throwing money at the problem is not enough and that we need to help structure the African economy so that people with entrepreneurial gifts can start new businesses.

Well, I think Mr. Stossel is attacking the wrong guy. Maybe Stossel should talk to Bono before he tells everyone what Bono thinks.

A Holy Moment

I was asked recently what practically distinguishes a "holy moment" from those rituals and festivities that we set apart as holy. I thought it was a good question. So I answered it.

I would describe a holy moment as an unmistakeable experience of the Holy Spirit's work in life. I would agree with many that this can come in the midst of "set" events, but often it is in the spontaneous activity of the Spirit that we experience our most memorable holy moments. For me, a lot of holy moments have come through the Spirit's work through art: most notably music and literature, but many have come in the form of rituals and festivities (baptism, communion, worship services, etc.).

One that I will never forget will be at our wedding, when Marcie and I each raised a hand in the air as we sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness." We both really had the sense that it was truly his faithfulness that brought us to that point. A ceremony and a holy moment caught up together.

Of course this discussion raises the question of whether rites of passage and set services are always holy moments, whether we feel like it was or not. It's hard to say that a holy moment depends on our individualistic experience of that moment, but it's also difficult to say that a moment can be a holy moment when we have only experienced it as a routine.

I would tend to say that we experience a lot more holy moments than we acknowledge. Just because we didn't see it, didn't mean it wasn't a holy moment. But then again, there are events that label themselves 'holy,' yet it seems to be something that God would have a hard time endorsing.

If the Kingdom of God is a continuous 'holy moment,' maybe all I need to do is open my eyes wider and acknowledge my whole life as a holy moment.

If only there weren't so many unholy interruptions.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Pure Genius of "King of the Hill"

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Greatest

This is the text of a video narration I put together for Sunday. The video was just me getting ready in the morning, hopefully reinforcing the point about loving God every moment. I owe a lot of the ideas to Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed, as they informed my approach greatly. Here she is:

The Shema was and is the greatest creed of Torah, the Jewish law. Every single night before bed, and every single morning when they awake, an observant Jew would recite the words of the Shema…

Shema Yishra’el Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad...

“Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

This creed is central to the Jewish faith. It is point A and point Z. It is the starting blocks and the finish line. It’s the bare minimum of what one needs to know to be a good Jew. Yahweh alone is God…love him with everything you have.

All Jews know that the Shema is very important, but there was no consensus in Judaism of what was THE most important aspect of Judaism. A first century Rabbi named Hillel was challenged by a Gentile to summarize the entire Jewish law while the Gentile stood on one leg. Since Rabbi Hillel didn’t know how good this guy’s balance was, he knew he had to keep it short. He said “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”

Another first century Rabbi named Jesus was asked many questions of this nature as well. After being grilled about taxes and marriage at the resurrection, Jesus was still doing pretty well; his answers may not have pleased everyone, but the average person was amazed at his answers.

So a teacher pops the big question. He likely doesn’t have a right answer in mind…rather, he hopes that Jesus’ response will either be so brilliant that it answers all of his questions, or that it will be so wrong that Jesus will get himself into some serious trouble. The question was simple; “Rabbi, what is the greatest commandment in Torah?”

Jesus recites the very same words, the words he recites every morning and every night; the words of the Shema: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Yes! The Shema is the greatest commandment in the Law…I had a sneaking suspicion!

But Jesus didn’t stop there. He went on: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus did two very important things to the Shema by answering this way. He defined it as the greatest commandment in the whole Law, and He modified it; he added to it.

So the words these Jews recite at least twice a day are maybe even more important than they had thought. But these weren’t the only words they needed to remember. Loving God alone is the greatest commandment, but there’s another commandment that’s a lot like it; Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus is saying that there’s no way to divorce the two ideas: if we love God, we’re doing the best thing there is, but our love for God had better lead us to love the people he has created. Love for God without love for people is self-righteousness, bigotry and intolerance.

But if we love people, we’d better love the God who made them. Love for people without love for God is a chasing after the wind: incomplete, incoherent and ultimately unfulfilled.

So if this is the greatest thing we can do; this loving God and loving others thing, let’s think of ways we can do it. Think about what your average day looks like. How can you love God and others in it?

Can you love God and notice his presence in making the bed or brewing some coffee? In getting the kids ready for school? In running errands all day? In sitting at your desk, working away? During the daily commute?

God’s presence saturates this world, and is never more evident than in other people. The opportunities to live out Jesus’ creed are endless. Are the things you fill your days with opportunities to live out this Jesus Creed, or are they just filler, passing the time between here and eternity?

Let eternity invade your life today. Jesus has told us and showed us what is most important. The greatest expression of love is giving up your life for your friends. Jesus did it; not just when he died, but every moment of his life.

Can we do the same? Can we follow Jesus in loving God and others? Let’s learn how together. After all, that’s what we’re here for.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tyrone and Kimberly

Tyrone and Kimberly from Georgetown, IL stopped by the church today in need of gas and food. I took them to Speedway and then to Hardees, and it was a great time. They were really good-hearted people who happen to have some financial difficulties. They came to Indy for a landscaping job, and basically broke even...and they came here with pretty much nothing. Kimberly kept making fun of Tyrone's egghead, and Tyrone made a couple comments about Kimberly's cooking. We laughed and ate a lot, and they headed back to Georgetown.

In a lot of ways, they helped me more than I helped them today. Yeah, I helped get them home and fill their stomachs, but they'll need all that stuff again tomorrow. I won't ever forget Kimberly and Tyrone, though. For the situation they are in, they have great attitudes, and they reminded me of just how blessed I am. We were three cracked Eikons, experiencing the grace of Christ which fills in our empty places of need.

It felt like what ministry is supposed to be. I like days like this.

Monday, May 08, 2006


I usually shy away from the word proud, but I'm proud of my good friend Matt. We met at Libertyville Covenant Church, where I was a youth volunteer/intern and he a senior high student. Now he's a freshman at North Park, and is following his heart and making a difference in the city of Chicago (though he would probably insert the words "trying, mostly unsuccessfully"). Our relationship has always broke the mold of leader/student barricades (I hate those crappy barricades anyway), and I'm proud to say that right now, I am definitely the student.

Read this.

Thanks, Matt.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Tyranny of Literature or How I Became a Theology Addict

Do you ever have so many things you want to do that you end up doing none of them? I do. Especially with books. I have these books on my desk:

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson
Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, Scot McKnight
The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight
Praying With the Church, Scot McKnight
Preaching Re-Imagined, Doug Pagitt
The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright
Soul Shaper, Tony Jones

and these next to my bed at home:

God's Politics, Jim Wallis
Posers, Fakers and Wannabes, Brennan Manning
Three, Flannery O' Connor

I have the desire to read all these books from front to back right now. I've begun to read a number of these books, some I refer to as needed, one (Jesus Creed) I'm intentionally moving through very slowly, and some I've just recently acquired and haven't got to yet. Why do I insist on trying to tackle so many things at once? When I'm around books, I "Get all excited like Jo-Jo the idiot circus boy with his pretty new pet...I pet it, I massage it, I love it...and then I (incoherent destructive noises)...and that's when I blow it. But that's when people like us have to forge ahead, am I right, Helen?"

I'm the same with c.d's, of course, but they are much less time consuming. I wonder if there are any good books I can read in an hour? Any suggestions?

Oh wait, I don't need to lengthen the list any more. Even with short books.

I wish my list of 'People to Serve and Give My Live Up For Today' list was as long. I need to work on that.