Sunday, September 30, 2007

Go to School. Blog. Get Cash. It's That Simple.

Or it could be, if you are the lucky winner. Do you blog? Attend college? Then why not take a shot at $10,000 for school-related expenses?

If you're not a penniless student, you could take five minutes and nominate a friend's blog. Maybe a blog that combines hoops, theology, and random baby photos with completely true stories and eclectic book reviews. Maybe a blog with "bitter" and "sweet" cleverly juxtaposed in the title... ;)



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What Keeps You Awake At Night?

Seriously, I want to know. I can think of some obvious answers both via conjecture and via past experience. Pre-interview jitters. That girl. The missed dunk earlier. Etc. But surely we also have more unique, personal reasons for lying awake until 2 a.m., mind running wind sprints, staring at the invisible ceiling.

What're yours?

I started a new book yesterday afternoon, and got so psyched over the main premise that I was awake half the night trying to calm down. Ridiculous, but there it is. I have a little spare time tonight, but I'm afraid to open aforesaid book for fear of a repeat performance.

Has anyone experienced anything remotely like this, or am I on my own here?



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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Alan Hirsch, Gibbs & Bolger, & Emerging Church


I just finished Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger (review on the way) and opened The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch. Reading these two books consecutively is going to provide an interesting point-counterpoint effect, since Emerging Churches is largely descriptive ("here's what's going on--you should join us") and Forgotten Ways is more prescriptive ("here are the ways church should be done biblically, with some substantiating examples").

Gibbs & Bolger poured five years of research into their book, an attempt to fairly represent the current practices of "emerging churches"--and they do several back flips en route to explaining how churches officially get the emerging tattoo. Interesting, but since the book is intended as a sympathetic survey of what's out there, its value for practice is inevitably limited: The brute fact that people are doing these things does not necessarily mean that I should run outside and start doing them myself. Or maybe that's my nonconformist streak speaking out. Don't mind me.

Alan Hirsch's book is a different animal. I've only just read the introduction, and he's already promised to make the world my oyster. (Don't question my metaphoric connections just now.) He point back to the New Testament spiritedly, and paints church and theology with a vivid imagination that's instills hope and a sense of adventure:

The book in your hands now is one that could be labeled under the somewhat technical, and seemingly boring, category of missional ecclesiology, because it explores the nature of the Christian movements, and therefore the church as it is shaped by Jesus and his mission. But don't be fooled by the drab terminology--missional ecclesiology is dynamite. Mainly because the church (the ecclesia), when true to its real calling, when it is on about what God is on about, is by far and away the most potent force for transformational change the world has ever seen.

Maybe I'm just on the rebound from Gibbs & Bolger, but I think I'm really going to like this guy.



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Emerging Church Leaders "On Notice"

Apparently Mark Driscoll is causing some furor with his recent criticism of Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt and Rob Bell. Not that this is anything new.

I haven't read anything by Bell, so I don't have an opinion re: Driscoll's problems with his theology, but I think his theological beefs with McLaren and Pagitt are justified.

I thought some of you might like a look at the confrontational nature of "theology" as it's going down within the broadly-labeled "emerging church." Also, I really wanted to post this picture (stolen from bob.blog).



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Electric Summer Breeze


The fan feathers air
Into a funnel cloud
And oxygen molecules
Patter our skins
In sequined waves.
Our skulls are barrier reefs.
We fill our lungs
With cool clear dots
And fall asleep.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Beware Theological Dissection

Sometimes, as Emily Dickinson wrote, "We murder to dissect." You can chew on this quote from Telford Work for awhile.

Theological and practical distinctions are necessary to the clarity and integrity of the good news. But when we turn distinctions into disconnections—isolating individual salvation from reconciliation, atonement from eschatology, Israel from Church, Church from world, justification from sanctification, creation from salvation—we leave them divided and conquered. - Telford Work, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, 167

Thoughts?



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Going out for coffee

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"And to think I almost vacuumed this up"

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Church Planting Q&A with Kevin Cawley

From time to time this semester, I plan to post the transcripts of conversations I've had with active church planters. Some of you will love these interviews, and some of you will tune out, but I'd suggest that if you're into theology and culture (which you probably are if you read this blog, right?) than you'll find these talks interesting. First up is Kevin Cawley.

Kevin is a graduate of Wheaton College, with a Master’s in biblical exegesis, and he's in the process of earning a Master of Theology from Regent College. Although he currently lives in Little Rock, participating in a residency program for church planters, he's made stops in Vancouver and Minneopolis. He has been part of three church plants and is making plans to plant a church in Kansas City, Missouri.

Also, going on what I learned in person and what I’ve gathered from his blog, Kevin has spent a large percentage of his life in coffee shops, which may explain why he makes so much sense. Our conversation took place in Westport’s Broadway CafĂ©, my favorite espresso joint. Due to the numerous coffee shops in Westport, Kevin found the place on his second try—which meant that already had coffee when he arrived. After he and I did that casual are you who I think you are? stare thing, Kevin headed to the counter to buy another drink. “I don’t want to be that guy,” he said. Thus, my first impression was that Kevin was a humble, earnest man—which he definitely is. You'll enjoy his thoughts.

Here are my questions, followed by Kevin’s answers. I wasn’t able to transcribe the moments when our conversation veered into coffee, sports, and indie rock, but here’s what I did capture.

What’s been the greatest challenge(s) of church planting?

Heart issues. Bringing every facet of my life under the gospel and keeping it there—pastoring with a humble, Christ-exalting passion for the city. My greatest fear is losing the gospel, not so much “failing.” Many lose the gospel and do quite well.

Maintaining faithfulness to the gospel means proclaiming it—avoiding syncretism—and living it—showing forgiveness inside the church and mercy outside. When the church has become sectarian and fundamentalist in an abusive way, they’ve lost the gospel.

I just pray that God will keep me humble and keep me repentant. If you can keep that kind of passion and fear of God at the heart of your ministry, you win. Once these things are gone, who cares? Church planters or union drywallers, Christians face the same question: What are we keeping at the center of our world?

How do you deal with the financial needs?

I pray and ask people for money. Seriously. The second church plant we were involved with, I worked a full time job, but it was murder on my marriage. Ideally, there would be a sliding scale with outside support and inside support, as the church becomes self-supporting within three to five years.

I’d try to talk to people about stewardship internally, within the new church, which is part of keeping the gospel central. Ultimately, I think money follows ministry, so that where God’s moving, money’s going to be there.

How do you deal with the “people” needs? (Finding people to work with and attend the church.)

I meet with everyone I can, see what their heart is, and ask what the city needs. I talk to everybody and ask them what God’s trying to do in the city. Like in the Simpsons, mobs can form fast, and disband just as quickly. Solid groups gather slowly and deliberately.

How did you (or would you) put together a core group?

I would put the word of God at center—start a Bible study—but I want to fight against the idea that church is a place we go to get something [like cultural consumers]. Another good way is to start a prayer group. Casting vision outward is crucial. Incorporate the question, “What does the city need and how can we take action to get there?” Another way: capture the hearts of men, as opposed to talking to Sally and hoping she’ll drag along her boyfriend.

Assembling a core group is about collecting a group of missionaries to reach the city. In my experience, “When to launch?” is a huge question. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. One place church planters screw up is not planning enough—but at the same time, you have to come to a place when you say, “This just feels right.” Intuition comes into play. You have to be close to God and you have to be committed to a team. If the launch is one date in your mind, you’re going to doom yourself. In one sense, you have to constantly regather your core group and plan to relaunch. To a degree, what happens, happens.

What was or is the role of your “mentor” or role model?

My professors embodied a “missional ethos.” As far as big names go, John Piper mentored me directly in Minneapolis and Tim Keller mentored me via his preaching and resources. I constantly try to surround myself with people who can correct me—as many friends as possible, some of whom are further along in the game. There are three guys from my sending church in Little Rock who hold me accountable and ask me questions: Money, leadership, people—how are you dealing with these things? How are you dealing with your soul?

Also, I constantly read. Dead people and live people you’ll never meet can mentor you. If mentors aren’t playing a consistent role, you’re doomed. As far as finding mentors, be prayerful, be deliberate, and be willing to be told No. The kind of men who you want to mentor you are the ones who will find time to mentor you. These are real life on life relationships, very organic, not so much doing a book study. Ultimately, pursue God and love your wife in such a way that you can eventually be a mentor.

What is the role of sponsoring/partnering churches?

One church isn’t going to change Kansas City. It will take a movement of like-minded churches. I want to partner with as many people as I can, both churches on the ground in the target area and churches elsewhere. What’s often lacking are sending churches backing you with money and people to help you win.

Beyond that, I have two big hopes. One, I hope for a day when denominational distinctives don’t carry as much weight. Two, I hope for substantive alliances and partnerships across denominational lines—not shallow ecumenism, but strong partnerships. The kingdom is bigger than me and I need more help than just myself.



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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wonderlust by Vicki Kuyper, B (Book Review)

Flash Review: Exotic Locales and Emotional Appeal

In the introduction to Wonderlust, Vicki Kuyper explains that “what was calling out so loudly to my soul was not simply a lust for travel, but a hunger for God, a longing to know the One who is the true Artist and Architect behind the real wonders of the world.”

A little further down the page she writes, “This inward journey [toward God] can often be sparked by an outward journey”—and this is the premise of her book.

Kuyper largely succeeds in what she sets out to do: interweave colorful travelogue stories with spiritual observations. Her writing is in the personal, confessional vein, as she invites her readers to identify with her inner struggles and benefit from her global adventuring--which is extensive.

The book suffers some unimaginative chapter headings ("Journey Toward Self-Acceptance") and the genre is nothing new, but Wonderlust is a solid example of how to look for and find Christ everywhere we go. Recommended (especially for women who would like to travel more).

Is it on the Master Book List? Yes it is.



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The World is Glowing

After I spent the summer stabilizing our checking account, sweating in the sun, Lindsay agreed that I was justified in buying a new pair of sunglasses. Kind of a token acknowledgment of my efforts. So I found the pair I wanted online and successfully stalked them on eBay.

They arrived with a set of alternative orange lenses, which I quickly swapped in for the standard browns. Then I walked outside and noticed that the world had changed, was glowing. Leaves and grass were radiant, near-neon green. The sky was shimmering azure. Sunlight pooled and splashed like liquid fire. Earth was a brighter and potentially better place.

I wanted to take a picture, but that would have meant cramming my camera behind my sunglasses, which could have compromised my nasal cavity. So I’m left with the next-best thing, a kind of Photoshop approximation of the glowing world my glasses revealed.

So far, only Lindsay, Aidan, and myself, have actually seen this startling secret.

I’ve begun to wonder if these sunglasses, which are clearly a mutant, one-of-a-kind pair (they probably fell into a vat of foaming, experimental acid in the factory) might be a window into the world as God sees it. Or the world as it will be.

Maybe the aptly-named Spy glasses give the owner a glimpse into the future. Or maybe the glasses perceive the promises woven into earth, the prophetic end to which all things are tending—an end-times, urban-Edenic radiance.

My sunglasses reveal some of the light configurations, but I wonder what the new heaven and earth will look like, all told. I wonder if Jesus sees the world as dark and crumbling, or brilliant and already redeemed, or both. I wonder how long we have left before, in a flat second, everything dark ends and we’re made strong enough to live in the heavy, vivid, bright new world.



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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Swing me. Do it now.

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Kester Brewin Speaks Up

I have to give it to the guys who associate themselves with the Emergent Conversation. Sincerely. They tend to be willing to interact about theology, even with guys like me who are not high fliers with thousands of readers or forthcoming book deals. So while I typically disagree with their theology (or what I take to be their theology since it is not often spelled out to my satisfaction) I applaud their willingness to--well, you know--converse. Some solidly "Reformed" types could learn from them.

Awhile ago, Spencer Burke commented on a post I made about him. And today, Kester Brewin had some thoughts on my review of his book, Signs of Emergence. Here's what he had to say (will make more sense if you read my review first):

You jerk!

Kidding, kidding. Here's what Kester actually said.
Thanks for reading the book and taking time to review it. Someone just sent me a link...

I think your comment that those "who use statistics and scripture deliberately to support their reasoning" is perhaps a good summary of your position.

Actually, I very deliberately didn't try to set out to convince people intellectually. I think doing so can lead away from action, rather than toward it. And in fact, I think we see Jesus doing this very little.

Scot McKnight had a similar criticism: "give me something concrete brother" was his way of putting it. But the whole point of an emergent system is that it is locally grown. There is no model to buy into, and thus the temptation to set out concrete examples needs to be resisted, as people often follow them, rather than the underlying principle.

I'm sorry if you're not sure if we're playing on the same team, or if you consider my view of God and Scripture slippery. The book is clearly for those of robust faith, whose knowledge of Scripture I felt didn't need patronising with footnotes on every nod to a passage... And for those who I felt could handle some different perspectives on faith, from some very different sources. Hopefully that doesn't mean we're on different sides, or I'm just trying to please everyone ;-)

I think Kester Brewin's response was fair enough, and points up both what I liked about Signs and what I found problematic. I'll respond briefly.

I agree that story and suggestion are often more powerful than syllogism. I'm a story guy. I read them and write them, even (especially) during final exams. C.S. Lewis is my favorite author, and it's obvious that sometimes people need to be inspired and sometimes they need a blueprint. Brewin thinks that evolving forms of church (ecclesiology) fall into the former category, and I pretty much agree. Churches in different cities and cultures and centuries can and should look different. So detailed prescription is not helpful.

However, biblical doctrine (theology) is not an evolving animal that changes color and grows new limbs to suit its changing environment. Therefore, while timeless truth can be embodied in story (parables), it is also spelled out explicitly, argued overtly, and defended relentlessly in scripture, and we're encouraged to do likewise.

It's vital to distinguish between what changes and is culturally informed and what is nonnegotiable and timeless. That's why I object to semantic games where theology is concerned.

This is where Kester and I differ, I think. He writes: I'm sorry if you're not sure if we're playing on the same team, or if you consider my view of God and Scripture slippery. The book is clearly for those of robust faith, whose knowledge of Scripture I felt didn't need patronising with footnotes on every nod to a passage...

Problem is, I can't assume we're playing on the same team. How could I? If I knew Kester Brewin personally, if we talked theology over coffee, maybe I would know where he was coming from. As it is, passing comments about God's evolution aren't exciting or stimulating--just puzzling.



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That Dress Looks Good On You

Sometimes I wish I could exchange parts of my personality. For example, I wish I was the kind of person who becomes effusive in the presence of pretty things, which would solve most of my marital problems, since I would always be telling Lindsay how pretty she looked.

In reality, I like to reflect happily on beauty in a kind of appreciative silence that is invariably broken by Lindsay calling me out: "Three other people said I looked really good and you didn't say anything."

And she is right. It has happened again.
"But babe," I say, "I thought it. I just forgot to say it."

This defense is less than spectacular, but it is the best I have been able to come up with. In fact, it is not really true. It wasn't that I forgot to say something complimentary, but that it never occurred to me. To say anything. See, you're already confused, which is why I never use this defense with Lindsay.

It's the way I've turned out that's the problem. I'm missing those genes that make married men gush audibly over their wives every night and twice daily on weekends. I think there must be a DNA strand that would solve this little problem. As illustrated by this simple diagram, you would think the task would not be insurmountable.

That dress looks good on her. - - - - - - > "You look good in that dress!"

Really, how hard could it be? Harder than you think. But when you sign up for marriage, you sign up for change, which is why I will keep struggling to overcome my genetic tendency toward the quiet appreciation of beauty. At least until science catches up and a patch becomes available.

Not that there isn't hope. For example, on Sunday morning I ironed my own shirt. So you can beat these things.



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Monday, September 24, 2007

Expert Hoops Prediction

Aidan has been avidly perusing Big 12 rundowns, conference ratings, preseason rankings and bracketology. He even looked at Dickie V's site. Briefly.

He tells me he feels "very confident" that the Jayhawks will make the Final Four this year.

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BitterSweetLife Sighting

One of my articles has mysteriously shown up on RelevantMag.online.

OK, I admit, I submitted it.



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Signs of Emergence - Kester Brewin, B- (Book Review)

Review: Grassroots Change & Semantic Haze

Kester Brewin is a theological instigator, well-read, and an original thinker. He belongs to that persuasion of writer who thinks it best to put as many buzzwords as possible on his book cover (Signs of Emergence: A Vision for Church That Is Always Organic/ Networked/Decentralized/ Bottom-Up /Communal /Flexible /Always Evolving)—and, to be fair, Signs of Emergence leaves the reader with multiple new perspectives to test and consider. However, Brewin’s penchant for writing ambiguously provocative prose—while concealing his own position—creates some troubling holes in his writing.

In his introduction, Brewin states that Signs is “a book about change…for an organism to show signs of life, it must show it can respond to its environment, and for the church to retain a vibrancy about its faith, it must ‘adapt and survive’” (11).

Brewin argues that in a systemic way, the church should live “on the edge of chaos.”

He suggests that the 21st century church will remain viable not by “an upsurge in personal holiness” but by “a radical transformation of our corporate practice” (23). Kester argues that such ecclesiological evolution will be a grassroots movement. His fundamental goal, then, is to provoke such organic change by taking on the role of a “trickster” to challenge the church as an institution and goad it toward progress: “We should not fear this trickster work…its apparent contamination of our faith may actually hold its renewal and reformation within it” (13).

To the extent that Brewin seeks to question existing models of church while catalyzing unspecified action, he accomplishes his goal. However, the book suffers from confusingly broad brush strokes. Whether this is intentional or a symptom of Brewin’s trickery, the result is semantic ambiguity to the point of doctrinal and ecclesiological haziness. For better or worse, Signs shares a more than token similarity to the writing of Brian McLaren. (See my flash review of A Generous Orthodoxy).

Often, this provocative ambiguity makes Brewin’s perspective interesting. A strong theme is the assertion that God’s work is subversive and often mysterious to us, and therefore we need to be humble and give the latest incarnation of church room to grow among us—whatever it may look like, however it may evolve. Brewin argues that in a systemic way, the church should live “on the edge of chaos,” constantly changing to mirror emerging cultures and new opportunities. He also describes the mingled grandeur and tragedy of urbanity to great effect, calling Christians to embrace cities as their homes, finding glimpses of God amid graffiti and vandalism, and bringing hope and healing to the exploited. Come take the risky urban ride, he says in effect. In light of the kingdom, whatever happens, it will be worth it.

However, Brewin’s role of shotgun provocateur raises troubling questions about exactly what he is blasting away at. Sometimes, he seems to lapse into Process Theology: “God’s attitude toward the city…clearly must have evolved, for between Genesis and Revelation, God somehow becomes city-positive" (126). He presents God as a Great Experimenter, learning and changing along with his creation. Confusingly, he also presents Jesus as a pacifist, citing his “refusal to fight the system”—despite the fact that Christ did, in fact, challenge the entire world system on the cross and will return as a warrior to inaugurate his eternal reign. Should Brewin’s statements be understood as hyperbole or heresy? The gloss of his writing makes it hard to say.

Quantitatively, Brewin cites more poets, psychologists, and sociologists than scripture (Darwin’s presence permeates the book), and his prescriptions for the church, when he does offer them, seem potentially narcissistic. On the topic of worship, he suggests that unless people worship God in ways that reflect their individual talents and gifts (painting, sculpture, multimedia, labyrinth-building) it might not be worship at all. Should we understand this as an exhortation to incorporate art in our churches and welcome artists to worship with their work?—or is Brewin saying that preaching, prayer and song are not suitable worship elements for everyone? As the church evolves, should we dismiss the New Testament elements of church? Again, it’s hard to say.

Ultimately, Brewin’s work falls into a category similar to the writing of McLaren and Doug Pagitt, Emergent Village comrades; all three avoid overt discussion of doctrine and embrace semantic blurriness, justifying their means by a lofty end: We see more clearly than the rest of you, and so we’re playing trickster to shove the church in the right direction. In sharp contrast to this genre is the writing of theologian-missiologists like Roger Greenway and Timothy Monsma (Cities: Mission’s New Frontier) and Mark Driscoll (Radical Reformission), who use statistics and scripture deliberately to support their reasoning and guide their conclusions, rooting the reader in a biblical context.

I came away from Signs of Emergence with my perspective challenged, with food for thought, but also with a feeling of vague unease. Brewin’s picture of gospel entering urban centers is engaging. The momentum he creates for grassroots rethinking and reinventing is needed. But his depictions of God and scripture are slippery and unclear. I find myself wondering if we’re playing on the same team.



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The Blog Has a New Hairstyle

On days when I substitute teach, it seems like I don't fully wake up until noon. 15 minutes to go. This is a good reason to write a quick, undemanding post.

I've made some changes around here recently.

One, I added a permanent link to "My Beliefs" in the horizontal menu at the top of the page. This should quell any perplexed theological murmurings.

Two, I updated the Master Book List with additional titles. I've decided to include theology/church planting books, knowing they appeal to a more limited audience, because...well, that's what I'm reading. Not to fear, though, the MBL will continue to be made up primarily of "literature" in the traditional sense.

Three: I'm thinking about updating my profile picture. True, this doesn't really count as an accomplished task, but on a subbing day you should be willing to give me some slack.

As you can see, the changes I've made are not earth-shattering. They're more cosmetic. Thus the "blog hairstyle" shtick.

11:49. I'll wake up in 11 minutes and wonder why I posted this.



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Sunday, September 23, 2007

What We Have To Look Forward To

Lindsay was just laughing out loud as she read the concluding chapter in Mark Driscoll's Radical Reformission. "Listen to this, I have to read this out loud," she said.

"This is the end of the book, and I'm supposed to go out with a bang, like the fireworks finale on the Fourth of July. But I'm sitting at home on a Saturday, which is supposed to be my day off, in my daddy chair drinking tea, wearing my pajamas, and trying, to no avail, to be profound. I am hoping that you will recommend this book to your friends and that I will become so important that I can do eccentric things like Prince and maybe one day change my name to a symbol because I have never liked the name Mark."

"Ha ha," I said. "That's pretty good."

"But here's the part that I was really laughing at."
"My kids are in the playroom running around like midget demons arguing over crackers and juice with all the intensity of opponents and advocates of the death penalty at a state-sponsored execution."

"Midget demons!" she said.

"Now that is hilarious," I said, as I scrubbed at a juice stain while picking up cracker fragments off the carpet.



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Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Moment of Child-Raising Panic

"You were supposed to read that book to Aidan."
"I let him read it to himself. He likes to do that sometimes."
"Well, you let him rip up this entire page!"
"Oh. Well, yes, I guess I did. It's part of the way he enjoys books. But we could glue this. Where's the glue?"
"Glue? We don't have any glue!"
"What? Are you serious?"
"Honey, we are not normal people!"
"Apparently not."



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The Holy Spirit: A Forceful Personality

Mountain landscapeWind. Fire. Water. Our metaphors for the work of the Holy Spirit are powerful but impersonal. Why is it so easy to view him as a “force?” Maybe the language of natural powers is intended to compliment the primary nature of the Spirit as a personality, the living soul of a man, the eternal heart of Jesus.

If we think of the Spirit merely as a personality, we will lose sight of his irresistible ability to transform the landscapes of our heart—he can etch a canyon, make a burn zone, send a monsoon, grow new grass.

He is something that “happens” to us, reshaping our lives like a river, and he is someone who walks with us, speaking words that far transcend good advice.

If we think of the Spirit merely as a powerful phenomenon, we will forget that he is merciful, compassionate, and adamant about our healing. We forget, ultimately, that he is Jesus at work, growing his kingdom inside us.

That’s why the Bible demands that we take the two aspects of the Spirit and hold them together. He is no ordinary force and he is no ordinary person. He is something that “happens” to us, reshaping our lives like a river, and he is someone who walks with us, speaking words that far transcend good advice.

He doesn’t just whisper, he doesn’t just act. He’s a splashing, crashing personality, a flame with character. Only blowing or just murmuring are equally beneath him.

He’s a swift, fiery, liquid personality. He is a thoughtful, eloquent, decisive hurricane. He’s both person and power, and like Christ, he must not be reduced.



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Friday, September 21, 2007

Counterculture Becomes Consumer Culture...
and so on and so forth

After writing about Culture, Counterculture & Kingdom earlier this week, I just read Kevin Cawley's post on a Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Becomes Consumer Culture. This is an instance of that eerie reciprocity we're told is haunting the internet.

If you're interested in this ironic cycle, check out Kevin's post for some substantiation. If you're trying to figure out how it will affect your wardrobe, you are on your own. But let me know when you find the solution. However, your hypothesis had better be more profound that "thrift stores!"



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Trying to Pull Off the Geek Look

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"Uh, can you hold on a second?"

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Hot Links: Severe Mercy Movie, Jayhawks, Hipsters

Update: I just found another link I have to include! Here's a great article about one of my favorite bands, The Weakerthans. If you don't enjoy armchair philosophy you can skip Part I. But don't miss the commentary on "Our Retired Explorer."

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I used to be in the habit of posting links to stand-out content, and I'm making a push to get back into it. So here's the 9.21.07 edition.

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First off, there's now a website up for the upcoming screen adaption of A Severe Mercy. If you haven't yet read the book, do so now. The novel is a beautiful, heady love story that wrestles with profound spiritual questions. It's also deeply moving--and C.S. Lewis, the actual, historical man--is a central character. I have high expectations for this film.

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Next, here's a good rundown on the hoops studs that the Jayhawks are currently recruiting. With 5-9 scholarships to fill next season, it's hard to say how things will shake out, but I expect to see some of these guys on campus before too long.

::

Finally, if you have the energy for this kind of thing, go read about Types of Hipsters and try to sort yourself into the appropriate categories. (e.g., 30% Health Nut, 10% Detached Ironic, 10% Artist, 30% Newbie, 20% Natural) With a little imagination you can have all kinds of fun.



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Thursday, September 20, 2007

How Soon We Forget

I was checking some places to submit writing to, and just culled this from the "write for us" page of a prominent Christian magazine.

If you don't have journalism experience, please don't waste our time.

Since I have some journalistic experience, apparently I'm not one of the untalented losers who would get turned away at the door. (Note: I know plenty of excellent writers without journalistic experience and plenty of lousy journalists, given that I managed a college staff of 22.) So I think that criterion is not only arrogant-sounding but stupid. At the very least, if you want to limit prospective writers to journalists, find a professional way to say it.

The blurb is also kind of ironic, given that this particular mag is only a couple years old and got out of the gates with a completely unproven staff.

But stuff like this doesn't annoy me, not at all.



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"This chair would be so much cooler if it reclined"

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Potentially a Great Relief

What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. - Thomas Carlyle
What do you think? Is Carlyle right? I'm of two minds about this.



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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Caught by the Kiss










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Good News on the Car-Jacking Front

Remember when unknown thugs stole our family car, cleaned it out, vandalized it and abandoned it a few weeks ago? Well, with our insurance money and the assistance of Lindsay's parents, we have a very serviceable new (to us) Corolla, which should run well and save us gas $$ for years to come.

We're also looking to replace stolen shoes and baby gear, and several friends--both blog friends and local friends--have offered their help. While this is humbling, it's also very encouraging. The abrupt seizure of personal property has a strange distancing effect on the world/people you live with and think you understand--you feel angry and life feels surreal--so it was a gift of God to know that we had friends who were concerned for us, even to the point of donating their hard-earned treasure.

::

Also, I found a set of car keys in the parking lot. They were promisingly heavy. When I clicked the unlock button, the lights on a large, red hummer flashed. Score! This monster, which I carefully cached in a nearby warehouse, has got to be worth a couple grand. So things are looking up even more in the financial front. Anyone know a good local fence?

Rather than driving the hummer around and wrecking it across town, I'm going to cash in. No one can say I didn't learn anything from our experience...



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Church Planting, Mission, "Missional" & the Lived-Out Gospel

Appended to my lengthy review of Ed Stetzer's Planting Missional Churches is a good question from John B. I thought it was very much worth answering, so I've rescued it to address here. John's question:

I've been wondering about this for a while whenever you have used the term "church planting": What happened to the term "mission" (the term I've always heard used when describing new Lutheran congregations). Then I see that Stetzer's book uses the adjective "missional," which I assume means "of or having to do with missions." But I don't want to seem flip here; I'm genuinely curious as to whether "planting" and "mission" are interchangeable or if they're understood to signify different things.

Aside: not like I know a whole lot about all this, but I've always thought that the most effective witness to the Gospel is to earnestly, humbly live it. Your actions become the sermon--or at least its preamble. People will notice; they'll (eventually) ask What's up with all this.

Or is that naive of me?

I'm uncomfortably aware that some people spend hour and hours and thousands of words debating nuances of meaning in words like "mission" and "missional," but here's my short, simple take.

I think theologians today are moving away from the word/concept of mission because it implies, for many, something people do "over there"--as in overseas or at the least, across large geographic differences. Missions also sometimes has the connotation of discrete, concentrated activity, something people do for awhile (often on a "short term" trip somewhere else) before returning to normal life.

Having said that, I think that in many ways, church planting and mission are often synonomous--when mission is understood in the New Testament sense, as advancing Christ's kingdom throughout world cultures via the gospel. Not only "over there" but "right here" and not just on "mission trips" but all the time. Arguably, the best way to lead more people to Jesus is to strategically plant more churches.

Missional is a word that was coined relatively recently in order to clarify some of the distinctions I'm making above. Missional is intended to imply that the gospel ("mission") ought to be woven into the fabric of our lives as we work to know, love, and speak into our communities, wherever we find ourselves. There is an emphasis on Jesus' incarnation within a specific culture, and the way he identified with, served, and preached to those immediately around him. Likewise, we're all called by Jesus to live in this way.

A thought on John's last point. I've always thought that the most effective witness to the Gospel is to earnestly, humbly live it. Your actions become the sermon--or at least its preamble. People will notice; they'll (eventually) ask What's up with all this.

There's a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi that crops up all the time these days: "Preach the gospel. And if necessary, use words." While I appreciate the intent (I guess, not having known Francis myself) I think his quote would have to be radically rewritten in order to be scriptural:
Preach the gospel. And if you don't use words you haven't preached it. - Saint AJ of a city

I'm not saying this to pick on Francis (you can't diss a man who could talk to animals) and I'm definitely not playing down the vital, non-negotiable, necessity of an earnest Christian life, humbly lived. I'd be quick to agree that the main reason the church in America is a laughingstock that people lampoon with cartoons is because of the abject failure of many to live even a little like Jesus. Because of this, people are disgusted by "Christian" messages that ring hollow because of their bearers, and many believers don't want to say anything gospelish before they've had a chance to justify their words with authentic living. I totally relate.

But I think what we see in the New Testament is the interweaving of words and life, and the clear understanding that the gospel needs to be spoken--directly, clearly, audibly--to be intelligible. Our lives are intended as evidence to point to the truth of what we say. Even for people who try to follow Christ, this is a scary act of faith, because our lives are full of holes. But that simply affirms the fact that the power of the gospel rests in God's power to convict people and save them.

Well, that turned into a riff. (A contemplative one, not an ill-tempered one, by the way.) I know that some of the readers here have thought about these questions a lot, so I hope you'll jump in. And of course, I'm also curious whether I came close to answering John's questions...

::

I did not say:
Don't worry about your hypocrisy, just share Jesus.
The best way to be missional is incessant, loud preaching without relationships.
Don't worry about making friends--just be prepared to explain Romans.



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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

And Its Name Shall Be Called Coffee

Cricket has long since learned of the power of coffeeAidan has not yet tasted the liquid grace of God (we told him he needs to turn two first) but he knows a momentous occasion is at hand when I pull out my bean grinder and beans. Today he watched me closely, then began jumping up and down.

"Coffee!"

Lindsay and I looked at each other.

"Did he just say that?" I tried to see if the feat could be replicated. "C-C-Coffee," I coached.

"C-C-FOFFEE!" said Aidan. "FOFFEE! FOFFEE! FOFFEE!"

The way he was jumping around the kitchen, banging cabinet doors and chest-bumping the oven, I wondered if he had been secretly imbibing. At the very least, he's caught on to a vital element in the life of today's theologian.



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Just Google Me

Nice to see that I've gained some notoriety over in the UK. Fourth from the top. People are finally giving me my due. Awesome.



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Culture, Counterculture & Kingdom

What Kind of Music Would Jesus Dance To?

Last night, Lindsay and I pulled off another
escape date night, probably one of the last we'll get before # 2, the little man known to the world only by his mysterious numeral, arrives. We met our friends Brian and Kelly at the Plaza to drink coffee and smoothies and banter about church planting and stuff, and the Plaza forced me to think.

I was provoked by the Plaza's shiny, high-end store fronts and cocky materialism to think about culture. When I walk around in the Plaza, surrounded by people wearing $100 jeans, hand-sewn shirts and vogue hair cuts, I think, I need more money. Lots more.

But then the counterculture strikes back, because, about five seconds later, I think, I don't need more money. I just need to go back to Westport, where you can be poor and swank while drinking really good espresso. This materialism is sick.

Then, about five hours later, I think, Wait, is that really the answer?

We are steeped in commercialism and materialism and designer everything--so can we redeem ourselves by avoiding conspicuous consumption and reveling in indie music and cultivating down-to-earth sensibilities? It's fun to try. But I don't think it's that simple.

What we see around us is merely a game between culture and counterculture. The game is tag. The culture tags the counterculture--who then becomes the culture--and who then tags the counterculture (who was previously the culture, but has since become the counterculture, while absorbing a few themes of the previous counterculture, just in time to rise again...) And so on and so forth. I trust I make myself obscure.

But honestly, what's going on in these society games is not so much enlightenment as the pursuit of hip authenticity, or the new cool. The raw and avant garde sometimes has a more unassuming demeanor, but it's actually just as cocky as the moneyed establishment. Neither would make Jesus laugh with delight.

However. If I am any kind of a representative test case, I suspect that many Christians are overly ready to dive into the earnest, mouthy, ragged-pantsed counterculture--and assume they are walking like Jesus. But when it comes to big clumps of people, Jesus doesn't really have a favorite flavor. He's not looking to endorse the predominant, polished culture or the edgy, rising underdogs. What he wants to see affirmed and fought for is something entirely different and more elusive than anything we can capture in any brand, hair style, or genre of music.

Jesus loves his kingdom.

Bluntly: He's not an indie rocker and he's not an Enya fan. He just loves good music.

So...what does a kingdom culture look like? Probably not merely like the Plaza. And probably not just like Westport. Thoughts?



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Monday, September 17, 2007

Larry Woiwode - What I Think I Did, A (Book Review)

Flash Review: Groovy Past Infuses Icy Present

I mentioned Larry Woiwode in an earlier post, but having finished What I Think I Did (awhile ago, actually), I'm awarding Woiwode's artfully written autobiography a strong A. When a "writer" records his own story, the burden to produce something wonderful is heavy, and Woiwode carries it off with exceptional poise and nuance in What I Think I Did.

Woiwode weaves his bohemian back story into a snowy, dangerous present in an effort to salvage his deepest memories--but in a way that fuses them to his moment-by-moment struggle for survival, his family, his new identity. Highly recommended, especially if you write.

Here's one of my favorite passages from What I Think I Did:

The patterns of the scribbled multitude of twigs and the matching gaps of designated light in sequence to the movement of the limbs were as much a song as mine. This was the earth, its trees in their multitude of beauty, twigs to branches to trunks, brimming with voices about to break into speech. I was in a grip greater than my mother's hand, and tears of laughter leaped out like the presences I expected to see.

One presence was here, I knew, as I turned with my face raised, in the trees and sky, and in the earth that held me as I turned. The presence had put all this in place to instruct me about myself and the complications of the love I felt for Him.

Yeah, it's on the MBL.



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Into the Great Unknown

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In the Studio

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Planting Missional Churches - Ed Stetzer, A (Book Review)

Book Review: Culturally Savvy Church Plants Driven by the Incarnation

::
Cautionary note: As I read and reflect about church planting this semester, with the end goal of planting a church myself, I've decided to go ahead and post some of my thoughts--sometimes briefly, sometimes at length. This post is an "at length." Those of you who read this blog for its street cred and sly basketball references may want to tone out these contemplative church planting posts, but I'm hoping they'll interest a few of you. - AJ

::

Ed Stetzer has extensive experience in hands-on church planting and missiological research, and it shows up in his writing. Planting Missional Churches comprises a church planting manual in that it is a survey of existing models and “best practices” rather than favoring one approach. With numerous illustrations and suggestions for each phase of the planting process, and an ecumenical approach to various models that are sometimes viewed as “competing,” Stetzer accomplishes the difficult task of weaving together a wide spectrum of church planting thought in a complimentary, informative way. His bias for multistaff, “big launch” plants does show through at times, but Planting Missional Churches is arguably the definitive “wide-angle” book on church planting published so far in the 2000s.

In his introduction, Stetzer explains the fundamental stance of his book, one that represents a significant departure from much writing on church planting methodology: “The term postmodern has tended to lose much of its meaning… I believe it is better to focus on missional, a broader term which emphasizes the approach rather than the population. Here’s what I mean. Missional implies taking the approach of a missionary—being indigenous to the culture, seeking to understand and learn, adapting methods to the mission field—but winding up in the biblical form of the church.”

Stetzer's thought is biblically saturated, as he deliberates over the church planting processes we see at work in the New Testament. At the same time, he urges planters to exegete their own cultures and discover how the church can most effectively be incarnated within specific regions or cities.

Stetzer’s intent, then, is to write against the backdrop of Christ’s incarnation, rather than explaining how to reach a particular demographic (e.g., 20-something urban people) or milieu (“postmoderns”). This places the techniques and models that Stetzer addresses—and there are many—within a larger, unifying context: that of Christ’s sacrificial identification with first-century Jewish culture, and the impetus we should feel to go and do likewise as we plant churches in diverse cultures today.

As far as techniques and missiology go, Stetzer covers a lot of ground, but he remains faithful to this goal, which keeps his book refreshingly Christ-centered. Ed Stetzer has mastered the art of writing to a wide audience, so his chapters are easy to read and comprehend, filled with illustrations and anecdotes. However, because of the breadth of subjects that he sets out to cover, some chapters serve to instill vision, while others explain more mundane tasks like organizing child care and raising money for sound equipment. Understandably, the vision-casting chapters are more memorable while the how-to chapters read more like an instruction manual. Ultimately, this blend of big-picture thinking and nitty-gritty detail makes Planting Missional Churches the kind of book that gets opened at multiple stages of the church planting process.

I found myself fundamentally in agreement with Stetzer’s approach to church planting, and resonating with him on subjects such as preaching (centrality of biblical exposition), church leadership (plurality of elders) and cultural streams (adopt some, reject some, salvage some). Stetzer represents the theologically conservative, culturally liberal perspective on church planting which I gravitate towards myself. His thought is biblically saturated, as he deliberates over the church planting processes we see at work in the New Testament. At the same time, he urges planters to exegete their own cultures and discover how the church can most effectively be incarnated within specific regions or cities. He simultaneously urges planters to remain committed to theological orthodoxy and to jettison traditions of church that are anachronistic or bound to a previous culture.
Ed Stetzer’s book is the normative work, while Mark Driscoll’s eccentric, hair-raising story proves the exception to various proverbial rules of the game.

I am in hearty agreement with Stetzer’s assessment on every major point in the book. My only point of contention may be a limitation that is simply inherent to the type of book he has written. While Stetzer notes the existence of “organic” or “core to crowd” models, the lion’s share of his book tacitly endorses more complex “big-launch” models, which require considerable money, multiple staff, and extensive administrative systems. I would like to see more coverage given to simpler, ground-up approaches—but as Stetzer indicates, his experience is with the more traditional model, and he nevertheless does what he can to give fair coverage to the approaches he has not attempted first-hand.

Since I have read very few books on church planting to date, my frame of reference as I read Planting Missional Churches was limited. Clearly, Stetzer’s book is in a different genre from Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformissionary Rev., a fact that does not really speak to the quality of the two works. Driscoll’s writing is personal, autobiographical, and parts of it would work well as a stand-up comedy routine. Stetzer’s book is a survey, deliberately researched, and intended as a reference manual, not a narrative. In my opinion, both types of books are necessary and helpful in beginning to grasp the pieces of the church planting puzzle. If anything, Stetzer’s book is the normative work, while Driscoll’s eccentric, hair-raising story proves the exception to various proverbial rules of the game. I am happy to have read both.

Ultimately, I came away from Planting Missional Churches sobered and challenged. Some gaps in my understanding of church planting processes have been filled in, and I have been exposed to careful explanations of programs and systems I was unfamiliar with. Personally, the complex techniques and logistics that support church planting do not excite me, and I identify more with the stories of people like Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church, Seattle), Darrin Patrick (The Journey, Saint Louis), and Daniel Montgomery (Sojourn Community Church, Louisville)—men who started their churches by personally learning the cultures of urban centers and building out from a handful of core people.

Stetzer’s book caused me to realize that there are a wide variety of ways to start a church, and the particular brand of church plant that I am attracted to is just one in many, not the definitive model. I realize I will need to continue to read, pray and think in order to determine if my favored method is the best one for my context.



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Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Were you looking for your lipstick?"

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Spontaneous Failure to Communicate

And now for something completely different.

Like lightning from a clear sky, the inability to communicate can strike without warning. Notice I didn't say, "difficulty in communicating." Nope. That happens frequently, right? It's an unpleasant side effect of the otherwise gorgeous phenomenon of being human and have two different genders.

What I'm describing is similar to what typically happens when you contact tech help for assistance with your online service.

Syed}
I apologize for not being able to access your new emails in MSN.

{Ariel Vanderhorst}
So how do I fix this?

{Syed}
Sometimes this issue is caused due to the migration of your account to a new & better performace server...Areil, I cannot give a time frame in which this issue is going to be resolved. However, I will give you some steps to troubleshoot this issue, which may resolve the issue. However, if the issue persists even after performing these steps, I would request you to wait for sometime till the migration process completes.

The situation I'm describing would be similar to two people speaking to each other in two different languages, assuming that communication was taking place, then waking up to the fact that if Person B understood what I was saying at this moment, he wouldn't have that silly grin on his face.

Further illustration...
Q: Can you tell me how to get to the intersection of 1oth and Broadway?
A: 10th and Broadway is not where the arena is located, but if you don't know how to drive, you shouldn't be downtown in the first place.

Q: What time does the game start?
A: If you want to play basketball, you had better get some decent shoes and a haircut.

Or more to the point:
Q: It is really hot outside--did you hear the weather forecast?
A: Say that again and I'll punch your lights out.

Some of you are still looking for the uniting thread in my examples, and I appreciate that, because it reveals that you have high expectations for this blog. Rather than strange, nonsensical snatches of conversation, you're looking for witty, apparent non sequitors that actually illuminate profound truths about the meaning of life. Unfortunately, nothing like that is going on right now.

I had better not say anything more, except to note that I'm not describing myself and Lindsay, that I represent the guy asking the questions above, and that this weirdness could very well affect my GPA. Let this be a cautionary tale for those of you in school. Carefully document your interactions with higher-ups. This could happen to you, is what I'm saying.



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Friday, September 14, 2007

Insular Suffering & God's Sovereignty


I think that the way pain and loss drive us into ourselves like bats into a cave is one of Satan's best tricks. Hurting people are often the most alone--and not necessarily because they were lonely before they got hurt. Easily we turn away from other people and away from God at the very moment when we should be allowing our friends and Father help dissipate the sharp edges of our pain.

This pattern is one that Christ reversed in an amazing way on the cross, extending himself to his Father, to people around him, at the very time of his most hellish agony. "This very day you will be with me in paradise," he said to the dying man beside him. "Mother, look on your son [John]," he said to Mary, arranging for her care after his death. "Father, forgive them," he pleaded for his executioners, concerned about their impending judgment. And at last: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

On the cross, far from shrinking into himself, Jesus lifted his soul and looked the world in the eyes. He looked the world in the eyes because he looked his Father in the eyes. And he looked his Father in the eyes because his Father loved Jesus, was full of compassion and understanding, and was completely sovereign. Full of his Father's spirit and submitted to his Father's plan, Jesus never once experienced an instant when the events of his life swung "out of control." Everything was ordained. Everything was foreseen. Agony was agony, but incredibly, it was as it should be.

The way we should respond to suffering is modeled by Jesus and expressed in verses like 1 Peter 4:19. "Those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." Our Creator is the one who holds the wheel of the world and knows the real outcome of every vague contingency. Haphazard is not in his working vocabulary. Maybe is a word he laughs at.

Therefore, when suffering comes, our response to God's jaw-dropping sovereignty should not be distance and stoicism, the kind that makes us strangers in our own lives and causes us to wear masks around our friends. God's power to know and control, as shown in the beautiful Father-Son dynamic of the gospels, should be the very thing that pushes us toward trust and prayerful desperation--especially when our heart is broken.

If we want to live biblically, we are forced to adapt the Bible's categories and let the Bible train our reactions. Sovereignty is a puzzling, even agonizing, reality this side of eternity's lens--see Job. But we aren't to respond with polemics and philosophical theories and vitriol--see Job. Instead, sovereignty becomes a constellation, dimly seen through layers of rain and mist, that nevertheless guides us through desperate shadowlands to clear skies worship and humility. Again, see Job.

A moment comes when we get a sketchy idea of God's power and the way it is interwoven with mercy, and his invincible kingdom expands around us. God, who could have prevented our agony, is using it instead to redeem all of creation and to transform us into immortals who will live on the new earth in unmapped glory. God is slow and certain and he will have his way.

He is turning the devil's own tricks into miracles and when the new heaven and new earth rises from the ashes of this one, we will not think that the trade was a poor one.



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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Brawling with the Baby

Aidan and I have this game we play where I get down on my hands and knees and roar like a lion (you know, loosely) and say, "I'm gonna get you!" He screams and runs away, or gets down and crawls himself, to make it more fair. I chase him around the apartment, between his mother's knees a few times, finally cornering him for a tickle-wrestle fest.

So last night I gave him the usual I'm gonna get you line, and he turns around and charges toward me, roaring, and gets me with a two-armed headlock. Out of nowhere. It took some aggressive tickling to extricate myself.

In Hebrew, Ariel means "lion of God." In Celtic, Aidan means "fire." Having read The Jungle Book, I'm aware that fire wins out against tigers, but I'm not sure about lions. I'm thinking I'd better keep working out. Whatever the case, no wonder it's crazy around here.



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On the move!

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Admiring his handiwork

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mark Driscoll's New Books

I'm a fairly careful reader, so I've noticed that in various places (in a couple of his previously published books and online) Mark Driscoll has mentioned that he has six books en route to the publishers. More recently, he upped the ante, saying something to the effect that six books would be out in the next year. Reading this, my immediate thought was, Cool, dude. Good to see you're keeping your nose to the grindstone. I have a half dozen of my own in the pipeline as well. Seven if you count the one I wrote last week.

Actually, I thought, It's no wonder you're seeing a naturopath for those stomach ulcers.

If anyone else wondered what was going on, this post on Driscoll's Resurgence blog casts some light on the matter. A couple of the new titles will be Vintage Jesus--Timeless Answers to Timely Questions (coauthored with Gerry Breshears) and Death by Love, a book highlighting the gritty, practical implications of the cross. If Driscoll's post is any indication, the latter book will be a bombshell. Coming later is a line of short books, around "20,000 words," that can be "read in an hour." All of these titles will be published under the new Re:Lit tag in coordination with Crossway.

This sheds some light on Driscoll's "six new books next year" statement, although I'm still waiting to see if he actually pulls it off.



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Spoon Concert Review

I've "discovered" some great indie bands before they broke into the limelight, but Spoon wasn't one of them. I'm a latecomer to this band, so I'm a little behind the curve, and have to depend on solid concert reviews like this one by Joe Day on Doxologist. Here's a taste of what Spoon does:

Their most recent release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a strong album. It opens with a classic Spoon-ish chord progression on Don’t Make Me A Target, the type of 2-string, rhythmic strumming found on Pedro the Lion records, but with a bluesy twist. And from the beginning singer Brit Daniels had me hooked. The guitar tone, the understated instrumentation, his oddball take on soul, all come together right off the bat. After that, it took a few spins for the rest of the album to grow on me. The obvious highlights are the reverby Cherry Bomb, and The Underdog with it’s super-catchy horn melodies.

If you like indie rock, or simply enjoy insightful writing about music, check out the whole piece, which describes a Spoon concert in Seattle.



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Monday, September 10, 2007

The Artist as a Very Young Man

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The Bear Is Growing Taller

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Age Has Its Benefits

Well folks, it's finally happened. And after all these years. I've aged.

So as to avoid being overly precious, I'll admit that I've been aging for my entire life. It's just that until this semester of my substitute teaching career, the dividends have been less obvious. But now there is no questioning the fact that I've started to experience the benefits of some aging. Check this out:

This semester, no high school students have asked me whether I "go here" (to which I would typically reply, "I'm making some extra money on my lunch break") or if I'm a junior or senior.

No teachers have stopped me in the hall and asked me where I'm going. ("Actually, I was headed to the teachers' lounge.")

No security officers have asked me why I am trying to get into the school building before the bell sounds. ("Because I have to be in the classroom when the kids get there. Not the other kids, the kids.")

Also, a couple teachers have offered me coffee, as opposed to checking my ID, and not only do the high school kids really look more like kids, they also pay more attention to me. No one has offered to fight me after school or questioned my right to sit in the soft chair.

There's no doubt that aging is bittersweet, and ultimately a corruption of God's intended plan, but I'm willing to allow that there are accompanying benefits. At least when I'm not on the basketball court.



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Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Simple Plan: You Pray for Us

I'm far enough into the semester that I'll need to start spitting out crafting polished book reviews left and right in the next couple weeks. I'm not complaining about my independent studies, which I need to do in order to graduate, but I've realized that "independent study" is a euphemism for "reading more books, writing more papers, and doing bigger projects, without supervision, while paying substantially more for it."

On the bright side, I get to choose some of my own reading material. Oh yeah, and I get to graduate.

In the long run this extra exertion will definitely be worth it, but in the short run, my creativity is being sucked out of me. Some days I feel a kind of dark pragmatism creeping in, which means that my imagination has flat-lined, and I have to rapidly drink coffee and play with Aidan in order to get those little peaks showing up on the EKG again.

I'll continue to post photos, quick book reviews and "think about this" blurbs, but I want to continue using this blog for creative output as well. This would be a health indicator, because my spiritual imagination ebbs and flows with my proximity to Christ, and the clarity of my thoughts and feelings about him.

Nothing new here, really. It's the typical challenge of academia: retain your originality, your enthusiasm, your sense of humor, while acquiring discipline, rigor, and a pile of books you would never have read otherwise. I'd be the first to argue that these two elements, spontaneity and education, are not enemies. Youthful aggression needs a sensei. But that doesn't mean they don't act and feel antagonistic sometimes.

Anyway, please pray for me. I know my predicament is hardly original, and there are probably thousands of people in similar circumstances right now. (Although I bet most of them don't have a rambunctious, brainiac 1.5-year-old with number two on the way--oh God, let him be more laid back!) But the fact that you are reading this probably indicates that you should pray for me, right now, instead of worrying about those other guys. So go ahead. Do it!

Have you prayed yet?

You could also pray for Lindsay, Aidan, and boy # 2, who all depend upon my sanity. And the safe arrival of boy # 2, as well as Lindsay's health, as she brings the little man into the world. It gets a little intense toward the end there--especially if he decides to arrive early. The target date is October 9, but you never know whether these tiny rebels will cooperate. If the blog suddenly goes dark for several days, you'll know why.

So then, your assignment, should you choose to accept it: pray for us. In return, we'll do the same for you, if you ask us.



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