Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Blog Friend

I added my friend and North Park seminarian to the bloglist, Dan Teefey. He and his wife Dana just recently introduced their new daughter Adelaide Rosalyn to the world, so click on the link if you love cute baby pictures.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Book Tag

I was tagged by my friend Matt. It took me much longer than I had anticipated. But it takes me forever to do anything. Enjoy! And note: I’m not big on following the rules.

1) One book that changed your life:
One? Ha! I laugh in the face of such restrictions! I can think of five books that have shaped my identity. Other books have impacted me in other ways, but these have to take the cake. In chronological order:
a. In 1998, The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. Got me really thinking about God’s grace and my identity as one loved by Christ for the first time.
b. In 2001, Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis. Confronted me with the fact that I was intensely arrogant and that the disease of pride had taken ahold of my life in a way that I was blind to before.
c. In 2003, Ruthless Trust, by Brennan Manning. Yet again, Manning was right on, refocusing my life not on trying to predict God’s will all the time, but simply trusting in it. It was quite a release.
d. In 2005, Posers, Fakers and Wannabes, by Brennan Manning. I know, way too much Manning. But this one has exposed more lies that I believe. I’ve begun to see that many of Manning’s weaknesses are very similar to my own, and this time I was challenged to take captive each of my selfish, God-denying thoughts.
e. All the time, the Bible. Sometimes even Sunday School answers are true.
2) One book that you've read more than once:
I’ve read portions of books more than once, a chapter here or there, but I don’t think I have ever read an entire book more than once.
3) One book you'd want on a desert island:
Wow. The Bible for sure. If I had to pick something else, though, it would probably be something humorous, like a Kurt Vonnegut book (Cat’s Cradle, maybe?).
4) One book that made you laugh:
Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut, The Metamorphosis by Kafka, Franny and Zooey and The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger and Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor.
5) One book that made you cry:
Night by Elie Wiesel (way back in high school sophomore English), Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, and definitely Mere Christianity by Lewis. Night was just sad, C & P had such a touching ending, and I was crying during Mere because I didn’t think I was a Christian anymore, and it scared me to death.
6) One book you wish had been written:
In many ways, What To Do Next by God, but I know that if that book was written, I would be missing out on a lot of intimacy and wrestling with him. So maybe I don’t really wish that was written, but at times I would wish for nothing else.
7) One book you wish had never been written:
I don’t know. I feel bad about trashing peoples’ work, so without being specific, I’ll put out any book that has willfully perpetuated an ideology which has led to hatred towards any portion of humanity.
8) One book your currently reading:
Preaching Re-Imagined by Doug Pagitt, The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer and Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’ Connor.
9) One book you've been meaning to read:
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N. T. Wright, The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf, Rumors of Another World by Philip Yancey, Ragman by Walter Wangerin, and the list goes on and on and on and on.
10) Tag 5 others:
1) Marcie, 2) The Vis, 3) RyJo, 4) Matteo, 5) Steph, AND Ushwin, Kristin, Nibbles, Ice-Man, PezKat, Randy, and anyone else. That’s only five, right? I only numbered 5 of them, anyway. And if you don’t have a blog, or if you don’t like to write in it, just post your answers as a comment to this post, or post it on whatever place on the worldwide web you see fit. I’m not picky. Well, sometimes I am, but that’s a different story altogether.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Weird Conversations...

If one of you prank called me today, you did a dang good job. But please show yourself.

A few minutes ago, someone called our church asking if we had a singles ministry. Our secretary transferred the call to me. I told the guy that we minister to singles all the time, but we didn't have a specific singles ministry group. He didn't seem to care, and moved on to asking me if I was the only pastor. I told him that I did mostly youth ministry, and that we also had a senior pastor.

He didn't seem to care, and started asking what the church believes. I explained the basics of our mission, teaching, etc. Once again, he didn't seem to care what I said. He asked what I did, and what I liked about my job. I answered as best as I could, explaining my heart for people to live for the Kingdom of God, to know that they are loved by God and live for his purposes. I don't think he really cared.

Then, with his next question, I was able to see why he was really calling. He asked, "are you a money church or a people church?" I hadn't been asked that question before, and I hesitated and responded, "a people church." He made a huge deal over the fact that I hesitated for a bit. I tried to explain that I hesitated because it was an odd question and that quite honestly, as a church that exists within an American economy, we do still require money to function. I didn't want to sugarcoat and pretend that we don't also need money for ministry, relief work, mortgage payments, etc. Sad, but true.

Then he proceeded to explain to me exactly why we existed. The same reason every church exists. We're a business and we're after everyone's money. I said, "well it may seem that way, but we are only trying to meet a budget to support our ministries."

Then he said, "Is it true that all you need is God?"

I said, "In a way, yes, but that's an oversimplifi..."

He cut me off, "Well, then you don't need church. You don't need money. At church, you tell me all I need is God, but that I also need to give 10%."

I said that we do not teach that you need to give 10%. I told him that our theology is that everything belongs to God and that we give back to him portions of what is already his to begin with. I told him that this was something that we struggled with all the time. We feel like budgets help and hinder the work of the church simultaneously. Thoughts of house churches without mortgage payments to make swirled about in my head.

He said, "There's one God, right?"

I agreed.

"Then why are there so many churches?"

"Because of human sin. We don't always work out our differences in the best..."

He cut me off again, "It's because the church is a business."

He was waiting for me to agree.

"Well, don't you agree?" he said.

"I suppose we are a non-profit organization, but that's not the poin..."

"Your church is a business and all you care about is money."

I said, "That is absolutely not true."

"You just say that because you're on the inside," he retorted.

I asked the guy why he was calling in the first place. He said that he just wanted me to admit that the church is a business and only cares about money. I told him that I would not admit to something that was not true. I explained to him that this conversation was going nowhere, that I was not going to confess to a lie, and that apparently he was not going to listen to what I had to say.

He said, "Well then, have a nice day at your job. Have a good business day."

I said, "Great," in a semi-sarcastic tone.

"Thanks for your time," he said.


We hung up our phones.

I hesistate to reflect on this too much, as I am not 100% convinced that this wasn't a prank yet, but assuming this guy was legit, I really wonder what has caused this guy's bitterness. What church experience has he had, that he has decided to randomly call churches pretending to be interested in their ministries in order to make accusations? I agree that quite often we get way too bogged down in money, and churches are not always good stewards of that money, but "Dang!"

He never gave his name. I don't know if I'll ever talk to or see this guy again. I hope someone else can handle his onslaught better than I did. What a weird start to a day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Too Good to be True?

My wife is awesome. Our child is going to be born any day now. I have a job that I enjoy. And to top it all off...I found this today:

Baby Rock Records. This is perhaps the greatest idea of all time. Just listen to these lullabye renditions of Radiohead, Coldplay and Pink Floyd songs! I can't explain how perfect this is. Listening to Paranoid Android as a lullabye is amazing.

Wow. Is this too good to be true? I think not. I think it's just plain awesome.

Thanks to ysmarko for the find.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Vows

The following is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. It is the vows I read to Marcie exactly three years ago, on the day we were wed. And just a note: weddings are overrated, but marriage is awesome. Don't spend so much time planning a wedding that you forget to prepare for a marriage. The marriage lasts (or should last) a lot longer. End of unsolicited advice.

Marcie, my love, my favorite, my pace partner, the love of my life, my cool breeze on a hot day, the best ever, my princess:

As I vow my love for you, the question that begs to be answered is "what will I give to you?"
Well, I will not give you perfection as you already know, for I am far from that ideal...only Christ can give perfection
I will not give you fulfillment, for I am only human, incapable of fulfilling all your needs...only Christ can give this as well
I will not secure, predict and guarantee all the details of our future together, for I am bound to this moment in time just like you...only God knows what He has in store for us.

All I have to give you is myself, me with all my imperfections, quirks, obsessive behavior and gas problems
I will give you my life so that we can begin OUR life, a life we will spend together and never give up on until our last breath
I will give you my time whenever you need to be with me, whenever you need to talk to me, whenever you need to cry with me
I will give you all the romantic energy I can muster from within me as I continually woo you and make you my princessI
will give you all that I am able to give you. I will continue to dig deeper and deeper into my soul in attempt to express the love I have for you, a love that is sure to grow and grow as we become closer to one another, closer to Christ
I will go through absolutely everything with you. I will be relentlessly commited to you

You deserve everything I have to give and much more.
You have demonstrated such great love to me, it makes me want to love you back even more
You are the most beautiful woman in my world. Your beauty encompasses the whole of you, inside and out.
I am forever greatful to God for creating you with me in mind
I will do my best to take care of you, to honor you, to serve you and always protect you

It is a shame that the phrase "I love you" contains both the words 'I' and 'you,' since neither of these pronouns apply to us anymore.

It is now only 'we.' We love each other, and will love each other for the rest of our days, because Christ first loved us.

This I vow to you, Marcie.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


n. A film or movie enthusiast

I know some cinephiles. I feel like I am one right now. Marcie and I have watched a variety of films in the last few days. I'll write a brief commentary of each from my perspective. Note that I am in no way seeking to be objective...these are my impressions of these films.

Lady in the Water - Loved it. I found the subtext of this film was better than any of Shayalaman's others. The others may have had more engaging and suspenseful plots, but this one asked what I found to be the deepest questions about the purpose of humanity and how we go about figuring out just what that is. Questions of just how God's plan is enacted are raised, and I love it. Paul Giamatti's character's journey to redemption was heart wrenching. The pacing was good, and to top it all off, it was easily the funniest of Shayalaman's movies. I definitely recommend it.

Madea's Family Reunion - Really liked it/loved it. I liked Diary of a Mad Black Woman, but I didn't love it. I wanted to see Reunion anyway just because Tyler Perry is so stinkin' funny. Well, as it turns out, I found the story of Reunion to be a step up from Diary. The way Perry deals with the reality of domestic abuse, how he unleashes Cicely Tyson to deliver a touching speech (cheesy, but what great content), the presence of the authoritative voice of Maya Angelou and the absolute hilarity of Madea and Joe made this film quite pleasing to watch. Like I said, there's some cheese in this film, but it didn't bother me at all. I thought that overall the acting, plot, and pacing were spot on. I am a fairly gracious filmwatcher, anyway. Tyler Perry and M. Night Shayalaman are both geniuses in their own ways.

The End of the Spear - Loved it. Marcie watched it when I was away at CHIC, and told me that I had to watch it. It was incredible. I felt it was moving a bit slow at the beginning, but it was excellent. It made me feel uneasy at times. I like how the film depicted the women going back into the Waodoni mission field after the slaughter of their husbands without much fanfare. It was an absurd act of obedience to God, but the filmmakers let it speak for itself. I think I would have been tempted to have some intense dialogue portraying the existential angst the women must have been feeling facing the decision to continue on the path their husbands had tread. The redemption scene was even better than the one in Lady in the Water, mostly because I knew it was based on a true story.

Glory Road - Loved it, in an "already seen it, but I don't care" sort of way. I tried not to hold the similarities with Remember the Titans against it, for it was its own film. Besides, it's not the film's fault that it came from the same studio and was drenched with the same 60's music and racial tensions and revolved around a story of young people in athletics, specifically a cinderella story. I thought it was a bit more sloppy than Titans as far as pacing and character development goes. It was definitely a feel good movie, so I wouldn't recommend it if you are a die-hard realist (read: pessimist), but you know what, I take that back. I would recommend it to pessimists because this is based on a true story. Sure, it makes it look like this was all happening in Coach Haskins first year (it was actually his 5th), and there's Hollywood touches that will never bring it too close to reality, but the core is truth. They did win. They beat Pat Riley, unlike the Dallas Mavericks (go Eastern Conference!) and everyone else along the way. If you take it for what it is, you should love it. Perhaps my favorite part of the dvd was being able to watch interviews with the original players in the special features.

Some would say I use the "loved it" 5 star movie ranking far too often. They're probably right. They say it cheapens the ranking because the standard is lowered to that. But to that, I say thank God that Jesus lowered the bar for salvation so that I could even get in. Take that.

I think I'll take a break from movies for a couple days. Maybe not, though. It seems to be the thing to do when your wife is eight months pregnant and it's a million degrees outside. Insert your favorite non-sequitur here ___________.

Thanks and God bless.