Friday, August 31, 2007

Wood, Rock & Grapes in Hermann, MO

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Is Your Blog Viral or Catty?

Over at Goodmanson, Drew spells out the differences between "cat blogs," "boss blogs" and "viral blogs" as he indulges in a Cat Blog Post. I think the distinctions are helpful, as far as they go. The labels, which originate with Seth Godin, may add clarity to your vision as you pursue blogging exploits. Take a look and decide how you'd characterize your blog. How does your blog "type" effect the content and frequency of your posts?

I'd have to call BitterSweetLife a viral/cat blog. Which doesn't sound very cool at all. I just picture this infectious cat sneaking around foaming at the mouth, while people scream and run, on top of which I don't like cats. The language definitely has limitations.

This is why BitterSweetLife has its own label. We are an indie blog. We want to speak to a larger audience when possible, but that doesn't stop us from posting gratuitous photos of Aidan, writing personal ruminations, and bragging about KU Jayhawk basketball. We also like to speak of ourselves in the first person plural.

Ultimately, labels are made to be used creatively and then broken.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ain't Too Proud to Beg by Telford Work (Book Review)

If you have a name as cool as Telford Work, and you're a published author as opposed to a Dickens character, your prose had better be at least marginally discerning and crafty. In a best case scenario, you would combine a dagger-sharp mind with a cunning sense of humor and you'd communicate ancient truth in jaw-dropping, creative bursts. Fortunately for Telford, the latter is the reality.

I first saw Telford's name last week, and after saying it aloud several times to fully appreciate the resonance, I opened a review copy of his brand new book, Ain't Too Proud to Beg, with no idea what to expect. Within a couple paragraphs, I realized that the book would be a marker-up-er--and I started scribbling notes in the margins, recognizing that I had just discovered a strong, penetrating new voice.

Ain't Too Proud to Beg is an exploration of the Lord's Prayer, but unlike much of anything else you'll have read on the topic. Here are some quotes to give you flavor.

Telford introduces himself:

From childhood I thought of prayer as wimpy, and I have never quite shaken that impression. Even after my conversion to living faith the astonishing words of the Lord's Prayer would slip past me as I recited them. That changed too little as I entered my present career. How can a professor of Christian theology not have mastered five verses from the Gospel of Matthew (three in Luke!)? Believe me, it is possible.

He briefly characterizes the subject of his book:
We live through the Lord's Prayer as, say, America lived through the wrenching changes of the Civil War and World War II. Jesus' prayer is a process through which our lives travel and are transformed.

And adds brilliant color:
God often breaks into our worlds like a Fellini character who walks suddenly into the foreground of a long shot. So it is also with prayer. One moment we are scurrying through the things that fill our day. Then we utter "Our Father"--and suddenly we are in the Spirit, like John the Prophet on the isle of Patmos looking on as Jesus removes the veil from the whole world.

After I read about 20 pages, I jotted in the margin: Cornelius Plantinga meets Douglas Wilson with flashes of C.S. Lewis. Work is not only impressive, he's effective. He's a good-natured surgeon. His words carve inward with restorative effect. Work writes with perspicacity and skill, and his sketches mirror my own motives in ways that resonate and push me toward escapades of prayer. It's been some time since I've been blindsided by a writer this good--and on top of his published work, the man blogs. Hard not to like him.

You probably saw this coming, but Ain't Too Proud to Beg comes breath-takingly close to earning the highest literary honor this blog is capable of bestowing. A.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

God Uses Gospel Silliness

First day back on the subbing beat. After an easy hour spent "teaching math," I'm taking my planning period in the library. At the computer next to me is a dude hunched over his keyboard, eyes six inches from the monitor, wearing headphones and humming tunelessly. I stuck myself with an IV this morning to get the coffee into my bloodstream fast enough, so I'm slightly strung out on caffeine. With the tone deaf dude, my coffee buzz, and the frigid AC in the library, this seems like a good moment to think about interesting, slightly surreal ideas.

In the class he's teaching on emerging church, Mark DeVine recently made the comment that God is so thrilled when believers make any kind of attempt to communicate the gospel to people that he overlooks outlandish and silly techniques, and sometimes even uses them to point people to Jesus. In one sense, this is an idea without a lot of application, because we're not going to start wearing sandwich boards, FLEE FROM THE WRATH TO COME, and yelling verses at people, hoping that God will use our stupidity--because he can. It does help, however, to remind us that God wants compassionate hearts like the one beating in Jesus' chest, and the next killer ap evangelism technique will not be the defining factor in the world's salvation.

Hypothetically, I could turn to the guy next to me, who is now chuckling at a private joke while he hums, and interrupt his funky solo to ask, "Hey,if you were to die tonight...?" I'm not going to do it. But suppose I was moved by compassion, and that kind of evangelism was the only kind I knew. Would God shake his head in frustration? Probably not. So we should also hope that humans who are better versed in communicating biblical truth in today's context will not sneer at people who are still devoted to the tools of the previous decades.

We can try and bring them around, and demonstrate better ways to share and disciple, but God uses silliness of all kinds, even our particular brand--so we should distinguish between criticism and contempt.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Stomachs, New Backs, New Bodies

Last night, around 11 p.m., I was riding home from Saint Louis in the back seat of an old Toyota with the feeling that the Italian seafood I'd eaten for dinner had not helped the atmosphere of viva la revolucion in my stomach. Since I don't like monotonous suffering, I prayed that God would fix my stomach and digestive tract. Then I watched the stars go by overhead. I listened to the muffled roar of the tires, which drowned out any conversation happening in the front seat. Eventually I gave the time-honored fetal position a try, which is the only way you can (hypothetically) stretch out in the back of a small car.

I think I had a brief, ultra-lite doze, the kind where you find yourself looking at something--in this case, out the window--and ask, Was I asleep, or did I just blink?

Apparently I had fallen asleep, because the interior walls of my gut had stopped fighting each other. All I felt was a mild fizzing. Recoveries like this don't happen in the time it takes to blink.

I have this long-standing discussion with God about my physical condition, so I took the opportunity to let him know that this was a good start, a fantastic start, but he still had an open invitation to fix other parts of my body that are displaying planned obsolesence way too early.

There was a happy, bubbling levity in my stomach, and I wondered if it would surge up my spinal column like a restorative elixir, splash over my shoulder blades like a wave and cascade down, frothing through striated muscle to my waist, streaming to my knees, foaming between the meninsci, smoothing the cartilage to infant glass. It didn't happen, but I guess it could.

A quiet stomach is a good place to start, but I want more.
I want a stomach that runs like a hemi V8, always.
I want to trade in my vertebrae, which are essentially the vertebrae of an 80-year-old woman, for new ones.
I want knees that work like Aidan's, not like rusted-out hinges.
I want my fast-twitch quickness and my full vertical leap back.
But I want more than that. Much more.

I want a new body. Not only refurbished, but indestructible. No more wincing and tripping and aching and creaking. Permanently new.

Fortunately, that day is coming.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Books On Church Planting

As promised (or threatened, depending on how you look at it), here's a partial list of my reading for this semester. These titles come from the two church planting classes I'm taking as independent studies, Intro to Church Planting and Cultural Setting for Ministry.

Better still, these classes include about 1000 pages of additional, discretionary reading in the field--which is where you come in. Care to point me to books on church planting that you found especially helpful and to the point? (I've already got everything by Ed Stetzer and Mark Driscoll.)

I realize I'm just scraping the surface here. If you have reading tips, shoot 'em at me.

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Yet Another Basketball Victory

"Arie played me and Jake one-on-two last Saturday, and he beat us." - My father-in-law, fessing up to Lindsay

What can I say, it happens. I got lucky. My three pointers were falling, and then there were a couple dunks that I threw down, including a reverse slam, that had a demoralizing effect on the opposing team.

True, it helped that Jake (Lindsay's nephew) is slightly taller than a yard stick, that my father-in-law could use a couple ankle replacements, and that the goal was eight feet high. But take your victories where you find 'em, I say.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Can You Handle Facebook?

Joshua Harris can't. :) Which may be a good thing.

How do I put this? I found that [Facebook] encouraged me to think about me even more than I already do--which is admittedly already quite a bit. Does that make any sense? Without any help from the internet I'm inclined to give way too much time to evaluating myself, thinking about myself and wondering what other people think of me. If that egocentrism is a little flame, than Facebook for me is a gasoline IV feeding the fire. I need to grow in self-forgetfulness. I need to worry more about what God is thinking of me. I need to be preoccupied with what he's written in his word, not what somebody just wrote on my "wall."

My only contribution to this link: What Josh says about Facebook can pretty easily apply to the world of blogging and social aps in general. Therefore, a question worth asking: Is my blogging/networking making me even more of a hard bitten narcissist than I already am, or am I finding ways to subvert potentially parasitic technology to the glory of God?

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Waterfront Fireworks in St. Louis

On our Saint Louis trip, Lindsay and I walked down under the arch to the waterfront where an alt/country concert was in the final stages of the closing hoedown. The fireworks show more than justified that 10 minutes of suffering.

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Is Religious Pluralism Just Mental Laziness?

It struck me recently that what typically passes for religious pluralism is merely an imaginative form of cultural imperialism. "We are so enlightened that we know all faiths are the same, even though most of their practitioners haven't figured this out. We enjoy the shiny, trivial nuances, though."

Isn't this the essence of at least one kind of arrogance? Colorful, disparate beliefs are trampled into grey mush for the sake of mental convenience. Radically separate elements of faith are beaten into a lump in the name of progress, ala early explorers, who crushed native cultures, or Dick Clark, who standardized rock 'n' roll.

On a grandiose, general level, we want to be able to say we understand "faith," in order to dismiss it, so we decided all faiths are the same.

The beliefs of a culture carry the unique hallmarks of that culture--and vise versa. The person who says, "They all mean the same thing," is neither as informed or as culturally sensitive as he makes himself out to be.

If someone really cared about world cultures, he would examine each faith system in its own right. Face up to the radically differing claims about reality, feeling their weight. Allow the warring "truths" to battle, but without axing any humans. And let the chips fall where they may.
That's religious pluralism.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

School is Back

And sickness is back. I'm in the clutches of a stomach flu that visits a few times a year. I usually begin the new semester saying that "I'll probably need to write shorter posts this fall," but this time I'm actually going to do it. At least once.

If I don't feel better in a couple days, I'll post pictures of my new required reading, which should excite a few of you. Get this: I'm being forced to read books I would have eventually bought anyway. This has happened so rarely that I can count the number of times on one arm.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Aidan Sings w/ the Bird Man & Gets Famous

Today I was putting the finishing touches on some paid copywriting, but that won't keep me from telling you about the trip Aidan and I took to our local post office.

First, you should know that we walked there. It's only two blocks away and we believe in exercise. Or that's what Aidan said, anyway, as I put him on my shoulders and walked outside into the 95 degree heat. I guess what he really meant was that he believes in exercising me and I'm a big enough sucker to fall for it. But we got to the post office. On the way, Aidan pointed out some stoplights, birds, and a tricked out Mustang.

"Check out the tinted windows, spoiler, and sweet sun roof on that ride, Dad."
"Nice. I wish we had a sun roof right now."

We went inside. Inside the post office, about 30 people stood in line while two employees languidly counted out change and weighed packages as if they were a pantomime of Federal employees sunk in transparent molasses. The 30 of us just stood there sweating and staring at them, speechless. Really, words failed. One of the clerks smiled and joked with a customer as if there were not 29 of us still in line. Make that 37, because more people had just walked in.

I pointed to Aidan's shirt in an attempt to divert his attention from this failure of free enterprise, which was starting to get on his nerves.
"What's that?"
"A Jayhawk. Roooooock Chaaaaaalk..."

He started the rock chalk chant, which got the attention of the elderly couple behind us. As we had learned in the previous 45 minutes, they were Paul and Mabel and were renewing their passports although they had no specific plans to leave the country. They were planning ahead just in case--the only two people in America who had hit upon this brilliant plan, judging by the desperate, red-eyed crowds who are usually in the post office trying to renew their passports so they can leave for Cancun tomorrow. So we knew Paul and Mabel were smart. Still, we weren't prepared for what happened next.

"What's that on your shirt?" said Mabel. "Is that a bird?"
"A dirty bird," said Paul.
"A Jayhawk," Aidan corrected, not having learned yet that sometimes in life you meet people who, while they are victims of their geography and upbringing and you pity them, it is best to deal with them forcefully.

"Right, it's a bird," said Paul. And a second later, a bird started singing somewhere very, very close by. It twittered and chirped and whistled. It was amazing. It was Paul!

"Oh, COOL!" said Aidan. Literally, he said that. And then Aidan and Paul made bird sounds together for about five minutes. We have a canary, Cricket, who has a nice set of pipes, and Aidan likes to emulate him, but next to Paul, Aidan was an amateur. The 39 customers listened spellbound (one of us had been helped in the time this took to transpire, two people had gotten fed up and walked out, and four more had arrived) and made hushed comments:
"That's amazing." "Can you believe that?" 'Wow."

This was one of those rare moments you are just happy to be a part of. A moment when time stands still (or is it you who are standing still, in line?) and you know that you will never forget what has taken place.

When we finally reached the counter and mailed our two packages while picking up five more that the mailman was too lazy to deliver to us, we had made 39 new friends. Or 42 if you count the people who walked in during the performance. I left the building, holding Aidan in one arm and the packages in the other, and happy "Byes" fell around us like rain. We returned each one at varying levels of volume and modulation: "GOODbye, goodBYE! BYE! bye, GOODBYE!?" It was magical.

As we walked home, Aidan observed that it was very, very hot and tried hard to knock the packages off my arm. I was carrying them like a restaurant tray, palm up, stacked about a foot high, so it was hard for me to give him a nuggy, but with the help of my chin, I got it done. Just because he is already famous doesn't mean he can totally push me around.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Great Literature in About Two Sentences

Brenton is a flaming MU fan, which partially explains the title of his blog and fully explains why it's taken me so long to link this post. Also, I don't fully agree with his take on poetry. He needs to branch out and discover that, among other things, Frost is a Man. However, he's got a knack for talking about great lit. He combines a reviewer's eye and laugh out loud commentary--and in mere sentences.

All this to say, if you can forgive his twisted basketball loyalties, take a look at this poetry & lit post from Hey, Free Dummy. Good stuff.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Surreal Saint Louis Cathedral

I took this picture after dusk in downtown Saint Louis. The lighting was so low that I opted for a long exposure. The fact that I didn't have a tripod complicated things--but all's well that shoots well, right? I liked the ghostly hues that resulted. If you don't, at least you can understand the blurriness of the picture.

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The earliest forms of liposuction worked something like this

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mowing Diary #37

I figured it would be a good idea to start my first "mowing" post on a high number, like a new check book, to give it a feeling of integrity. Also, I could have easily written 36 previous mowing posts if I'd wanted to, given how I spend my daylight hours--but I spared you. Rather than questioning my title, you should be thanking me.

A couple years ago, Kansas City had a ridiculously cool and gentle summer. I kept finding myself looking around for glaciers or mountains in the distance, that's how good if felt to be outside. Because I wasn't sweating a gallon an hour or combating heat exhaustion, I found myself constantly jotting down post ideas or short poems between mowing jobs. The extra energy bubbled over in creativity. It was idyllic.

It will never happen again.

In 2006 and 2007 I mostly walked around dripping wet trying to avoid thinking original thoughts, because they wouldn't be the kind I wanted to share with the world. I stopped carrying a notebook in the cab of the company truck and developed a love for emo. And then, yesterday, creativity struck. Maybe it was the slight drop in humidity, maybe it was the 44-ounce Gatorade, maybe it was just inexplicable grace--but I found myself ransacking the truck for a pen, flattening out a Wendy's napkin, and scribbling down several paragraphs of pure inspiration. Since the napkin was soggy with sweat by the time I finished, I spread it carefully on the seat to dry. Then I left for lunch.

I came back. I looked around the interior of the truck. I looked in the bed. And under the seat.

"Hey Johnny," I said to my brother, "did you throw out a napkin?"
"Umm, yeah, I think I did."
"Did it have writing all over it?"

The truck is rarely cleaned out. Wait, that's an understatement. Cleaning is something the truck waits for expectantly like Christmas. Or leap year.

"I guess you threw it out," I said. "That's too bad."
"I'm sorry. I mistook it for another napkin."

Fortunately, the story ends well. After a lawn spent retracing my mental footprints, I was able to reconstitute my words on another napkin--something that doesn't always happen, whether you're writing in MS Word in your apartment or in a pickup in 100 degree weather.

"Watch closely," I said. "I'm putting this napkin up on the dash, in case another cleaning frenzy comes over you. It's the one with writing all over it."

And so the napkin survived, and was placed carefully in my backpack, and carried home. In the next week or so, some of that recaptured brilliance will no doubt make its way here--if it doesn't get thrown out by my wife.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Emerging Church & SBC Seminary

At the request of Micah Fries, I wrote an article for on the topic of "emerging church and Southern Baptist Seminaries." I explain briefly how I got interested in emerging church issues, state a few conclusions, and point out potential for the SBC (or any institution or persons, really) to mine the eclectic ec milieu for the good stuff.

I've been gone all day and just checked in--the article has 45 comments, so apparently people are talking about it a little. I am battling to do the smart thing and go to bed before midnight, so I'm not going to read the comments right now. If I did, I would immediately start typing responses, which would keep me up--and if I resolved read the comments but not interact, I would lie awake typing responses in my head.

Therefore, I must resist. This is not easy, what I am doing. But it is smart.

Upshot is, I don't know whether I was torn apart or commended for my youthful enthusiasm. (Either is fine.) You, however, can head over to the article and see what's going on. If you find out, don't tell me. I'll check it out tomorrow.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Your C.S. Lewis Quotes Changed My Life

A couple weeks ago I was complaining about how I haven't been able to read any C.S. Lewis this summer the way I like to. Why? My job. Work gets in the way of these things.

This afternoon, when I opened the plastic bottle, sunscreen exploded all over the dashboard. That's how hot it was. And when I opened my mouth outside, moving quickly, I almost drowned because of the inrushing condensation. That's how humid it was. I say this to prove that my reasons for not being able to read Lewis are very real.

Therefore, it was a great relief when some of you responded to my Lewis post with quotes. What you did was beautiful:

"It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.
[ ]
Do not be deceived, Wormwood.
Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys." - Amanda, from The Screwtape Letters

"You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage." - Oneway the Herald, from The Great Divorce

"Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew, the birds and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and, after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you." - Jeffrey, from The Four Loves

"[Many] are afraid that heaven is a bribe... It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul could desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, because only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives." - Jeffrey, from The Problem of Pain

"There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not." - Mark, from Mere Christianity

Reading these quotes as they came in was like massage therapy to a tired man, but also like smelling steak before dinner. Nice selection too. I was refreshed and tantalized. I was provoked to action. That's how I ended up plowing through Reflections on the Psalms and feeling the quality of my life increase, all within a few days. You people made it happen, and I thank you.

It's a slightly surreal feeling, having my own blog bait me into reading C.S. Lewis, but a very good feeling nevertheless. I find myself wondering if "the blog" will turn on me and force me to do other, better things as well...

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

New Can't-Miss Books

Last weekend, our trip to St. Louis and Hermann marked a good time and a lot of miles on our car, but it also marked our sixth anniversary. Books tend to show up when anniversary gifts get opened, and here's what appeared this year.

I feel confident saying that every one of these books will pan out. Looking for something new to read, but don't feel like gambling? Assuming that you like well-written prose, and aren't looking for pulp fiction or chic lit (not that those don't have their places), I can pretty much guarantee happy outcomes with these titles.

And I haven't even read them. This is what happens when authors build up currency with readers, yes?
  1. This Rock looks to be a historical novel set in the Appalachian mountains at the turn of the century. My introduction to Robert Morgan came via Gap Creek (my review), which was fantastic.
  2. The Grand Weaver finds Ravi Zacharias doing what he does best--blending apologetics, theology and inspiration with the skill of a master surgeon.
  3. Jesus is The Life as imagined by one of the greatest living storytellers, Walter Wangerin. If you haven't yet, you should buy his The Book of the Dun Cow and read it tomorrow.
  4. And The Golden Stone is a collection of children's stories with some goodies thrown in for parents, also by Wangerin. It was really a gift for Aidan, but Lindsay decided to give it to him by proxy. Since it's Wangerin, I'm cool with that.

If any of you read one of these books and don't think it measures up, I'll buy it off you at four times whatever you paid for it. Or maybe I'll just say, "I'm sorry, I thought your taste was better..." ;)

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Headless Man Enters Wine Cellar

From our time in Hermann, MO. I had to give Lindsay a hard time about this picture.

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Five Lies That Ruin Relationships (Review)

Normally, This Would Not Be a Good Sign

Lindsay and I have recently been taking a look at a new DVD/workbook resource developed by Chip Ingram (Walk Through the Bible, anyone?). It has helped us to resolve several of the issues that were about to messily demolish our marriage like a one year old eating tomatoes.

OK, so I'm overplaying the drama. In reality, I got a free review copy of
Five Lies That Ruin Relationships, and the packaging and descriptions were intriguing enough to suck us in. We began watching the DVD sessions, and were favorably impressed.

Chip Ingram is a dynamic communicator, who maintains a high energy level (essential for video messages) and uses anecdotes frequently and effectively. Most important, though, the content of this series is thoroughly scriptural. This gives the messages an effective bitingness that other nicely packaged "Christian" resources often lack these days. The Bible often hurts us before it helps us, and Chip doesn't shy away from this non-PC reality.

Five Lies is intended for small group use (though it could work for honest individuals), and I'd highly recommend it for people who want to find relational health and healing. And by that I mean most all of us.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

What began as a "quiet time"...

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Godric, by Frederick Buechner, A+

What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.
- Frederick Buechner,

With the help of the trip Lindsay and I took to St. Louis, I was able to finish Frederick Buechner's masterpiece, Godric. The book is rough, beautiful, ascetic, and wanton in turns, as Buechner gives spectacular voice to a man's epic search for God. Grace wars with self-redemption, vision with loneliness, hot-bloodedness with seemingly icy virtue.

I'd like to write a review, but I know I probably won't get to it with the backlog of other stuff I want to post about, so I'm awarding Godric a hands-down A+ right now. Highly recommended.

This is the kind of book that will haunt you for months after you read it, if not for a lifetime.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Eating trees was easier without dentures"

Took this at the Saint Louis Zoo. In reality, this Giraffe had teeth, but he also had a pretty good "Grandpa" shtick.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

We're Back, & In More Ways Than One

We made it back. One hundred degree weather did everything in its power to stop us, but by dint of cool drinks and raw willpower we survived. In Saint Louis we stayed in the Ballpark Hilton (the Cards were out of town), walked through the zoo, hit up the Art Museum, ate at a local bar & grill, checked out a street party, photographed a cathedral at dusk, and watched fireworks and the end of a concert at the riverside under the arch.

The next morning we dropped by
The Journey before driving to Hermann, where we stayed at a bed & breakfast, took some pictures, and toured three wineries, where we encouraged them to widen their array of sparkling grape juices so they could cater to Southern Baptists.

And, writing this, I have stopped asking myself why I felt so tired when we got home.

So we're back. But as I considered posting some photos from our travels, I realized I've been remiss on another big news item.

Three Down, Two To Go:
Vanderhorst Basketball Team Is Almost Complete

That's right. Lindsay is pregnant with our second boy, and while our local friends have been aware of this for some time, I hadn't gotten around to making the announcement here. The baby is due mid-October, and so far everyone is healthy and excited. Aidan is looking forward to it too, although he doesn't realize that having a little brother means he will no longer be the single sun in the center of our family universe.

Oh well, I'm sure he'll adjust.

Some of you are thinking, Good night, you'll be going to school full-time, working part-time, raising a one-year-old, and having a second boy at the same time? You're crazy!

And yeah, yeah, you're right. So pray for us, why don't you? I figure this will be at least as hard as when I held down three jobs while taking 18 hours and working out with the basketball team while commuting to school my freshman year of college. But we are happy and we're looking forward to seeing this little guy in a couple months!

my NBA career, building a family is one of those things we decided not to wait on...

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Dressing up as Christ

Hey there. This is Jamie, here to bring you some C.S. Lewis fare and so stave off AJ’s Lewis cravings.

I re-read Mere Christianity earlier this summer after someone gave me a beautiful leather-bound edition as a graduation gift. One brief quote particularly affected me:

Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.
It’s a provocative statement, because of course we are not Christ, and can’t be. And yet, as Lewis points out a little later, the New Testament instructs us to posture ourselves in exactly that position—as Christ.

Speaking briefly of the Lord’s Prayer, Lewis notes:
Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean? They mean, quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. (emphasis original)
This is perhaps what Paul has in mind when he says that all who have been baptized into Christ have “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

In a sense, as Lewis suggests, we’re playing pretend. We let Christ clothe us in his own clothes, and then we practice our first tottering steps in his shoes, like so many small children dressing up in mommy’s heels or trying out daddy’s shaving cream.

It’s merely pretense at first. But why do we do it? So that as we grow up into Christ, the pretense may become the reality.

I forget sometimes that Christ has such grand intentions. I am content to play in the sandbox perpetually, not remembering that his vision is to mold me in the form of himself, to make me into a “little Christ.” For now, all I can do is fumble in his oversized, awkwardly fitting garments. But someday…someday…


Note: Great job, Jamie! Thanks for contributing. In case you're wondering, Jamie took me up on my invite to post quotes plus commentary on C.S. Lewis. If you'd like to do something similar, let me know. - AJ

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Heading to Saint Louis & Old, Liquid Grapes

Lindsay and I have enrolled Aidan in Bill Self's "junior" basketball skill camp for the weekend so the two of us can get away for awhile. Self was concerned that Aidan would be going up against guys roughly five times his height, but when he saw the arch on the boy's jump shot, he let him in.

Good news for us.

We're heading to Saint Louis for a day and a night, then to Hermann, MO, which is great wine country. In Saint Louis we'll hit up some parks and attractions and probably check out The Journey and I'll lounge in our hotel swimming pool and relish the fact that I'm not outside moving heavy machinery and sweating profusely.

In Hermann we'll slow down, stay at a bed and breakfast, walk around, do some reading, and investigate one of Jesus' favorite drinks.

Have a good weekend!

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"Am I supposed to feel guilty?"

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

I Know Nothing About Coffee

But at least I know more than I did two hours ago. I just discovered and couldn't tear myself away. And right before this happened, I was looking at a Krups espresso machine on eBay. Oh, the embarrassment.

What's a Krups? A Krups is the espresso machine that you give your one-year old to play with...

Why do I have the sinking feeling that this discovery will take some time and cash to rectify?

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Angry Jesus, Angry People

I've been thinking about anger some recently. Not because I am at all prone to it or know what it feels like. When I see angry people, I just look at them, and think, I cannot relate at all to what you are experiencing right now. Anger. I've heard that it happens to some people.

More seriously, I've realized that anger is a strand in Jesus' personality and it was on display sometimes as he walked the Galilean earth. With Jesus, it was not a mistake. Anger is his response to injustice, to evil.

Jesus surprises us, though. He's angry when we're indifferent and calm when we're irate. Our anger is typically retaliatory, childish, and ugly. Christ's anger is swift, clean, and driven by mercy. Our anger spurts up when we are hurt or thwarted. Jesus' fury turns the tables on the arrogant and brings renewal to the oppressed.

Jesus didn't conceal his anger, either--he had no need to, because the purpose of his rage necessitated its outer effects. That is, Christ's anger was not meant to be hidden. It was a sign of his fierce displeasure, a signal that he was about to attack the evil disorder of a world that mixes sin and stupor. God's wrath is this way: it burns white hot and pure and it accomplishes a purpose.

Not so with us. Our fury is a mongrel dog, corrupted by pride and selfishness, a vicious half-breed that we dress up with a leash and sweater before giving it the run of the house.

Jesus flamed up when the weak were exploited and when his Father's name was dragged through the mud. We get angry when our drive home gets exploited by rush hour or when someone drags our name through the mud.

Jesus got angry when children were pushed away from God and when stale ceremony took precedence over healing and when worship became a lucrative racket...

Jesus, make our anger more like yours.

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife