Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas! The Long View & C.S. Lewis

In lieu of a December update on Crossroads Church Kansas City, we’re praying that all our friends will enjoy the haunting beauty, stark reality, and startling joy of Christmas.

C.S. Lewis called the life of Jesus, “true myth,” meaning that the birth, life death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus has the power to shape and transform all our lives at a depth that we, at the height of our materialism, merrymaking, medicating, and good intentions, will never scrape.

When God became man, Heaven came to earth.
When Jesus lived here, his kingdom took root.
When he was murdered, our sin and darkness died with him.
When he resurrected, he killed death and crushed sin’s power.
When he returns, all earth will be transformed.

So wherever we find ourselves in late December 2009, we are freed to celebrate the stable, shepherds, and infant Savior in light of Jesus’ full life, which includes a chapter still coming. That’s the day when “baby Jesus” returns to earth as a resplendent, triumphant, divine hero and all his people join the party.

In C.S. Lewis’ words, that will be when, “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is morning.”

Merry Christmas!



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Monday, December 21, 2009

3 Rhythms for a Better Life

Today is a good day for this blog. A good day for this blog to be alive. A good day for this blog to be in existence, even though it is still hosted on blogspot.com and is therefore limited in its upward mobility.

Today is the day I sit down and write a post.

The last year of my life has been spent fund raising, team building, strategizing, praying, honing vision, buying a house, demolishing & remodeling said house, developing connections in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, chasing our three boys, ranting at pigheadedness wherever I find it, leaving my coffee addiction for an espresso addiction, laying awake at night, and, in short, working to get an urban church plant off the ground in Kansas City.

Things are going well. I can't complain.

However, this blog is one thing that has definitely been lost in the shuffle. Other things are my polished mid-range hoops game, my reading list, and, strangely enough, a favorite hat.

But as my family transitions into the holiday season, we're deliberately scaling back our Frenetic Activity Level to something closer to a 7/10. Doing some blogging is going to be part of my job description for the next several weeks, and, if things go well, who knows what could happen in 2010.

Lately I've been thinking about the short list of important things that act as health indicators in my life and how several of them are MIA. Here's what I've come up with as I tried to answer the question, What regular rhythms lead to health and wellness (spiritual, emotional, physical) in my life? In some ways I'm jumping the gun on New Year's Resolutions, but who has time to write a blog post on New Year's?

I used to know, the way you know in your frostbitten fingers and achy knees that Spring will come, that there was a place for a short-but-very-tough, sharp-shooting, almost-dunking white guy in the NBA.

For all five of you who have continued to track this blog even though I haven shamefully abandoned it, what are rhythms that act as health indicators in your life? Let me just preemptively say that these should be rhythms other than eating, sleeping, breathing, etc., so save it for comedy hour, smart a**. Since small children have been known to read this blog, I'm also taking rhythms of another, specific type out of play. Today we will faithfully maintain our PG rating. Ok, then.

Here are my top three:

1. Reading without an agenda. I like to read and I've spent a lot of my time reading, more time than I've spent watching TV (yes it's true). Therefore, if I can so say modestly, I'm very good at it. When I sit down to READ I can, you know, plow through a lot of reading. I can read an entire historical fiction novel in about five minutes. A book on philosophy or advanced physics takes me about ten. (Anything off Oprah's book list hits the mat in three min or less.)

Not really, but I frequently find myself reading merely for information these days. Reading with an agenda. As a guy who is convinced that the best books capture and stir our imaginations, it becomes painfully obvious that reading this way short-circuits the main point. I need to read slowly and reflectively. And not only commentaries and strategy books, but fiction, poetry, and the Bible.

2. Playing basketball and reawakening my lifetime dream to play in the NBA. I used to know, the way you know in your frostbitten fingers and achy knees that Spring will come, that there was a place for a short-but-very-tough, sharp-shooting, almost-dunking white guy in the NBA. Maybe starting as a back-up for the Clippers, then getting traded to the Mavs, and eventually playing a lot of minutes for the Celtics.

How did I know this? It simply became obvious as I played a lot of pick-up ball, taught defenses to fear the second coming of White Chocolate, and developed a hoops motor that could run for hours and defend taller players. I need to play more ball. I need to almost-dunk again. I need to recapture the dream. Pickup basketball was welded into my DNA and I'm blaming God for that. When I get to play ball every so often, I wear my other hats with a cavalier joy (except for the missing one).

3. Writing because I want to and can. This one is similar to my first rhythm. Sending off barrages of emails to not count. Updating my Twitter does not count. Texting a friend does not count. What I have in mind is writing in a purer form, a form that will not become obsolete even when Twitter becomes obsolete because, hey, 140 characters is almost an entire novel.

I enjoy making off-the-cuff decisions and crafting quick strategies as much as any other guy who grew up with a lot of siblings playing Risk and aiming for World Domination. But that kind of thinking doesn't replenish me. For me, the best kind of thinking happens when I slow down, stop hurrying, and put pragmatism in my back pocket. Writing my thoughts down, journaling, has been invaluable for me in the past and I need to return to it.

There's a kind of agile, strategic thinking that gets you through the day and, in the bigger picture, ensures the gears of commerce and finance keep on grinding. But behind this buck-stopping and call-making is the vision and steady spiritual intent that guides every last-second decision and, in fact, makes the daily triumphs and gaffes worthwhile. For me, writing, while simultaneously listening for God's voice, is how this deeper, wiser, vital thought takes place.

There you have it. Three rhythms that have been missing in my life for awhile. Three rhythms that I would like to see return. We'll see what 2010 holds. Any rhythms of your own?

X-posted on arieljvan.com.



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Monday, November 30, 2009

2010 NCAA Bracket Picks

KU is 10 deep and wins early-season games by 40 while making it look effortless. And as if you needed more proof that the best part of the year has arrived, Bracketology 101 is offering early bracket predictions for the 2010 NCAA tournament.


A few highlights: Notice that the Kansas Jayhawks are the overall #1 seed, with another very dangerous Big 12 team (Texas) representing as well as two KU arch-rivals, Kentucky (John Calimari, er, Calipari) and Michigan State (knocked KU out of the NCAAs in 2009).

In this bracket, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M make the tourney from the Big 12 as well.

Bracket below. Go to Bracketology 101 for a more detailed breakdown and tournament predictions rationale. I'm looking forward to talking more tourney picks as the season develops.




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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crossroads Church KC: Pitch Ad

I’m running way behind here. “Timely Communication. I knew him once, Horatio.” However, I still aspire to keeping folks up to speed on what’s going on with Crossroads Church Kansas City. An October update is in the works. In the meantime, I’d be remiss if I didn’t post the ad that we had published in the Pitch’s monthly gallery guide. We’ll be running this through December, as much to just identify with our community as to promote the upcoming services.



Things will continue to be grassroots for the foreseeable future. From day one, our intent has been to invest and serve downtown, volunteer our time to meet genuine needs, and let relationships develop on the way. We may do some other low-key promotional stuff, but we have no intention of switching up our baseline strategy. It just makes sense…the day we send out glossy direct mailers hyping the Next Big Thing In Church is the day I take a sledge hammer to our church structure.



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Monday, September 28, 2009

This Just In: Derek Tidball's Ministry by the Book

ministry by the book derek tidballTime to give a nod to another book that, from where I'm sitting, looks can't-miss.

Ever since reading a blurb about a new title by Derek Tidball, I was interested in cracking this book and exploring his premise. From the intro of the disarmingly titled Ministry by the Book:

This book seeks to open the imagination about ministry, not to close a discussion down. It seeks to sketch several models of ministry, all of which have their origins in the New Testament, and challenge the stunted understanding of ministry that so often characterizes our churches today. I hope it provides a number of "models of permission" that enable a freer approach to ministry and the way it is conducted, and provides encouragement for those who don't fit the "McDonaldized" version of ministry so common today.

It became obvious fairly early in my life that I wasn't going to grow into one of the soft-spoken, bleeding-heart pastor-counselors I saw in churches around me. I wished I could, and speculated about whether I could pump up enough tender, gentle qualities to qualify for ministry.

When I entered seminary, I once again felt the bite of square peg/round hole syndrome, as I struggled through classes that tried to groom me for a suit-and-tie-wearing, Sunday school-class organizing, business meeting-driven model of church leadership. This also was not happening, and at times it made me wonder what the heck I was doing.

During these years, I began to realize that leadership and ministry was not homogeneous in the New Testament, shouldn't be homogeneous today, and that I didn't need to fit myself into various homogeneous existing models of ministry. So I stopped trying, continued to read the Bible carefully, and did my best to figure out Jesus' vision for my gifts and ministry instead of taking my cues from various church cultures.

Now, as I start through Derek Tidball's Ministry by the Book, I'm thinking, This one would have saved me a lot of angst, confusion, and wasted time if it had existed 5 years sooner and, say, been required reading at my seminary. Hopefully it will prove as eye-opening and liberating for readers today as it would have for me back when I was trying to change myself into a soft-spoken, tie-wearing, pastor-counselor. (Who I'm not, but who of course have a place in the church.)

X-posted on arieljvan.com.



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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sooner or Later (Off-the-Cuff Poetry)

Life slows down
When your eyelids weigh 40 pounds,
And you don’t say the profound things,
The witty things,
That are on the tip of your tongue,
Because all your concentration goes
Into keeping your eyelids
From crashing into your cheekbones
And leaving those bruised-black circles
Under your eyes.
But soon you will look like
A night watchman at noon
Or like Bill Clinton
During the Lewinsky era.
Fatigue: It’s just a matter of time.



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Friday, August 28, 2009

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson (Review)

The full title of Eugene Peterson’s classic on spiritual formation is a small book review in itself, and sheds some light on his thesis—namely that to doggedly follow Jesus is to defy the conventions of our society. Check out the complete tagline:

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society

You just scan the book’s spine, and Peterson is already up in your face, softly but sternly suggesting, You’re probably going about this “spirituality” thing in the wrong way. You smile pleasantly and nod. Then you get past the introduction, and feel his fingers on your jugular. If you’re serious about this, some things will need to change; otherwise, just shut the book, ok?

Admittedly, I’m overstating the polemical tone of Peterson’s writing, but I’m doing so to mirror the book’s fundamental message: Slow down, forget religion-in-a-box (1.5 hours, once a week), and start plodding. Excellence is never quick and dirty.

Sometimes you read a book so needed, so deliciously counter-cultural, it makes you want to jettison everything else on the topic in your library—is there really anything left to say? For anyone consumed by doing everything yesterday—including learning how to act like Jesus, which I should have mastered last year—this may well be one of those books.

Peterson paints a picture of what Jesus-discipleship could really look like, and the travelogue is enough to make an explorer out of you. He fleshes out the panorama with contemplative writings on the “Songs of Ascents” (Psalms 120-134 in the Bible), which form a handbook for life on the road, the road toward Jesus.

The spirituality Peterson espouses is dynamic, straightforward and refreshingly “un-produced.” Combine this direct approach with a highly perceptive mind and you have a classic. Initially rejected by 17 publishers, this was Peterson’s first published work: a bracing discipleship text I would recommend to anyone.



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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Despite his innocent appearance, his enemies soon learned to fear White Beard the pirate



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Friday, July 10, 2009

Jars of Clay: Long Fall Back to Earth & CoffeeGeek

The internet has a strange reciprocity all its own.

Every month or two I cave in and binge on my favorite coffee website, CoffeeGeek. As I related on this blog a couple years ago, I used to think I was well-versed in all things coffee until I stumbled onto CoffeeGeek. Now it's obvious to me that in coffee, as in most other pursuits, I'll remain a life-time learner. I have a few things down cold (marriage, parenting, humility) but coffee isn't one of them. Ha ha.

So as I am reading articles late last night, learning about E61 brew groups and espresso pressure valves, what do I see but a sidebar article on Jars of Clay, one of the few "Christian" bands I can't help but listen to.

Turns out the Jars are java devotees, even though it sounds like they buy too much Starbucks bean. And this mention of the Jars in turn reminds me of The Long Fall Back to Earth, their independently-released record that dropped a couple months ago.

And I thought, Just as noteworthy as the fact that the Jars are coffee geeks is the fact that The Long Fall Back to Earth is an excellent album deserving of accolades. And oh yeah, I was going to write a post about this album a long time ago.

So here I am, trying to make up for lost time and expired good intentions. The Long Fall Back to Earth seems like a lock for my Top 10 list this year, as the Jars capitalize on their large fan base and renewed creative freedom. The resulting record is lyrically-savvy, catchy indie pop with staying power.

Prior to their bluesy/folk album, Who We Are Instead, Jars of Clay admitted to listening to a lot of Johnny Cash. My guess is that prior to this one, Death Cab for Cutie got a lot of play time. However, the Jars remain their own animal. Dan Haseltine's lyrical abilities seem to only get better over the years.

I am taking this moment to whole-heartedly recommend both The Long Fall Back to Earth and...coffee.



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Thursday, June 11, 2009

To A Life More Examined

Over the last several years, I developed a habit of extracting a few favorite quotes from every (quotable) book I read. Some books don't contain a single quotable line...and some of those make best seller lists.

I sorted the quotes topically and collected them in a searchable Word document, which steadily grew until it contained thousands of incisive, inspiring pieces of wordsmithery.

When a half-forgotten phrase came to mind this morning, I opened my Quotes document to track it down, and realized I haven't made any new entries for months. Life has been a whirlwind lately, and some healthy habits of thought and reflection have fallen by the wayside.

I need to get 'em back. So here I am, documenting my intention to slow down and enjoy the benefits of an examined life, with the help of the Holy Ghost. I leave you with a bit from a great book I discovered a couple years ago, Telford Work's volume on prayer. This one definitely pertains to Kansas City church planting:

A minuscule seed in a field, a pinch of yeast, a treasure chest in a field, one pearl, a net in the sea—none of these impresses except by its smallness. Yet each is powerful—in some cases more powerful than the thing it inhabits… As a little signature unleashes vast executive power and a tiny key opens enormous gates, so symbolic actions here lead to momentous actions elsewhere. - Telford Work, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg



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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir (Review)

While I don't hand out book accolades right and left, I also don't like to judge a book too quickly. I typically give a novel 50 pages to win me over or lose me forever. It really shouldn't take an author 50 pages to hit his stride, but some books do get out of the gate more slowly, right? (J.R.R. Tolkien, I'm looking at you.) It's the rare story that explodes out at you right after the intro.

However, The Night Watchman is one of those books.

A throwback novel in terms of style and motif, Mark Mynheir's The Night Watchman is a convoluted murder mystery with a hard-boiled, down-on-his-luck detective. If you're a fan of film noir or classic murder fiction, you know the recipe: a tough, likable protagonist with a tragic back story tries to overcome big odds to prove his life is still worth living.

The Night Watchman isn't what you call an original, genre-bending work of fiction. But Mynheir does plenty of things very well. He develops his characters carefully. He pulls of his protagonist's tough, wry voice without falling into cliché. He weaves faith into the story without forcing the issue. And he writes a first chapter that's impeccably timed and yanks you headlong into the story.

If you're looking for a detective story with heart and a good first-person voice, The Night Watchman is well worth your time.



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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Evidence for Jesus' Kingdom: The Quizzical Life

Every once in awhile I meet someone who goes through life with a look of mild perplexity on his face--not fear, not discomfort--but a head-cocked attitude of incredulity, as if his whole life he'd been watching a film that did not quite render accurately on the big screen.

For decades now he has been watching this movie, and there is a lingering sense of something off-center. Perhaps the camera is not capturing it all. Or the aspect ratio is haphazard and cropped the edges of the picture. Maybe the details would appear if viewed one frame at a time.

Because the film has surreal undercurrents. Something more than the color tones. The figures are occasionally blurry. The plot lines do not always resolve. And every so often he snaps to attention and remembers it is his own life, and the lives of those around him, that provoke this vague sense of disquiet.

He is living out a movie that does not quite render.

I like to consider this phenomenon as evidence of a better world, an eternal kingdom that is on the way but hasn't yet arrived. It's absence is so strong that everything currently present is colored by it. It's possible to go through one's entire life missing it, and looking at the present world quizzically, and wondering why the images and plot lines don't quite resolve.



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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Paul Pierce: Respect the Truth

I realize I may have been the only one in the Midwest watching the NBA playoffs, but since the Magic bounced my Celtics a few nights ago, I thought I'd take a moment to pass on a tribute to my favorite current NBA player, Paul Pierce.

At KU, Pierce was a nonchalant assassin. Sometimes he would disappear, his squeaky sneakers the loudest part of his game, apparently from boredom. But Pierce was consistently underrated and unrecognized, and eventually that got to him. When he got fired up, Paul Pierce was an offensive machine, sinking daggers and slashing to the rim with an uncanny ability to frustrate defenders and a remarkable feel for momentum and timing in a game.

Pierce's career in the league is likely winding down, but Upon Further Review have crunched the numbers for us, proving that despite his lone championship ring, Pierce is in very elite company indeed.



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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sometimes not even an excess of enthusiasm can overcome a lack of weight



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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Crossroads Church Kansas City: Site Live

Thought I'd put a plug in for the new website for our church plant in downtown Kansas City, Crossroads Church. Check it out:

Crossroads Church Kansas City

We've tried to incorporate some social media--Facebook, Flickr and Twitter--to add some interactivity. Also, we didn't want Crossroads to have a Mr. Milquetoast look with little doves and crosses in the header. Instead, we're trying to mirror the vibe of urban Kansas City. Feel free to send comments or suggestions my way.



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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big 12 - Pac 10 Hardwood Challenge Schedule

The Kansas City Star just posted the schedule for this year's Big 12 - Pac 10 Hardwood Challenge, a smash-mouth brawl of a series where the Big 12 holds a slight edge. This fall, KU will be traveling to UCLA for what will surely be the most closely scrutinized match-up. Here's details:

Kansas goes to UCLA, Missouri plays host to Oregon and Kansas State entertains Washington State as the pairings and dates for the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series were announced Monday.

Most of the games will be played from Dec. 3-6, with three games occurring outside the window.

Last season, the conferences split the 12 series games, but the Big 12 held a 10-7 advantage in all games between the conferences.

Television and tip-off times will be announced at a later date.

Nov. 29

Nebraska at Southern California

Dec. 3

Washington at Texas Tech

Southern California at Texas

Baylor at Arizona State

Dec. 4

Colorado at Oregon State

Dec. 5

Oregon at Missouri

Iowa State at California

Washington State at Kansas State

Dec. 6

Kansas at UCLA

Arizona at Oklahoma

Dec. 16

Oklahoma State at Stanford

Dec. 22

Texas A&M at Washington



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Monday, April 27, 2009

Great Lake Swimmers Album on Sale

Last year I stumbled upon Great Lake Swimmers, and ended up loving their 2007 record, Ongiara.

For the next 24 hours, you can pick up their new album, Lost Channels, for just $3. This record doesn't tamper much with the classic GLS formula, merely adding some talented backing vocalists and a little more energy to the banjos, hushed singing, and sense of open, sweeping, outdoor spaces.

If you like Iron and Wine, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, or Sufjan Stevens, you'll find something to like on this album. Especially for $3.



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Friday, April 24, 2009

Kansas Jayhawk Basketball, 2009-2010 Lineup

How Good Will KU Be Next Season?

So you've probably heard by now that Xavier Henry and brother C.J. are headed to KU and now the Jayhawks are the clear-cut pre-season #1. In case you're wondering, I've already filled out my 2009-2010 NCAA bracket with KU winning it all...

However, while many national hoops pundits are wildly praising Bill Self's recruiting jones--deservedly so--only a few are seriously considering how good Kansas basketball could be next season, and the array of talent Self will have at his disposal. One of those sources is Upon Further Review...who, ironically, was lambasted for saying that Xavier Henry would never set foot at KU.

But after eating a little crow, this blog serves up some of the best KU 2010 Starting Lineup analysis I've found. Check it.



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Friday, April 17, 2009

The Best Earbuds Revisited

On the day I sat down and slammed out my Best Earbuds post, I had no idea it would become the most popular page on this site. Apparently lots and lots of people want to find a decent pair of earbuds without breaking their bank account. How about that?

I was a penniless student when I wrote the post, and now I'm a mostly-penniless graduate/church planter, so the original concept of strong bass + solid treble range + designer colors + low price continues to appeal.

Apparently it grabs other people too, because according to my Amazon stats, the now-famous V-Moda "Bass Freq" earbuds continue to sell well, and continue to be well-reviewed by other users.

These earbuds come in a good range of colors, so the other day I found myself wondering if that was a big part of their selling point. Are people getting drawn magnetically to the V-Moda color palette? I mean, "tambarine orange" earbuds don't exactly grow on trees.

It was clearly time for some quick market research. According to my stats, here's the breakdown on the most popular (best?) earbud colors.

Bling Bling Black: 50%
Platinum White: 25%
Blue Steel: 16%
Hot Pink: 16%
Tambarine Orange: 16%
Rocker Red: 8%
Rouge Red: 8%

What can we determine from this off-the-cuff market analysis? Well, Jaded Green has fallen on hard times. And the majority of people don't want to get very adventurous with their earbud colors. Maybe it takes more-than-average confidence to pull off a Blue Steel or Rocker Red, I dunno. I should also mention that 8% of earbud shoppers jumped up a price category, opting to make more of an investment in the V-Moda "Vibe" earbuds.

But apparently the greatest attraction of my "best earbuds" are not the color choices. Which, despite the fact that I still think Tambarine Orange is an extraordinary option, is probably a good thing. Great earbuds should primarily be about the ability to deliver great music.



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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll (Book Review)

No doubt timing had something to do with it, but Mark Driscoll’s latest book, Vintage Church, is my favorite in his Re:Lit series to date. (If you’re looking at the total Driscoll canon, Confessions of a Reformission Rev is still at the top of my list.) Having written on topics like Jesus, the Atonement, church leadership, and the Bible, the biblical foundations for church was a logical next topic for Driscoll to tackle. And tackle it he does.

In Vintage Church, Driscoll’s propensity for landing verbal punches is displayed to good effect. Why? Because the Bible delivers all kinds of body blows to our pride and preferences, and this is never more true than when God speaks about his community, the church. So when we talk about the topic of church, teachers need to let God’s dictates fall. Driscoll does:

The Bible is clear that every Christian is a part of the larger church body and is expected to participate in the life of a local church with the gift(s) God has given him or her. This is so God may be glorified and so his people may be built up through their service to one another. It is therefore a sin for someone who claims to be a Christian not to be actively loving his or her Christian brothers and sisters and seeking to build up the church as fathful members of a church. - Vintage Church, 51

Tough ecclesiology like this leads to a robust explanation of what God’s people are to be and do. Driscoll hits on obvious questions like Who Is Supposed to Lead a Church? Why is Preaching Important? What Are Baptism and Communion? He fleshes his positions out with scriptural care, but also with a practitioner’s eye:

Preaching is like driving a stick: you only get better the more you practice, and the hope is not to kill anyone as you learn, while accepting that a few dents are inevitable. - Vintage Church, 92

Driscoll also discusses topics less-frequently discussed, like church discipline, technology use, and the active role of members. And while I’ve developed a gag reflex for blog posts and titles featuring the word “missional,” “What is a Missional Church?” is one of the best chapters in the book. A few lines…

A missional church goes to great lengths to understand the people God has sent them to. It seeks to know the culture and people better than any other organization, even businesses…(224) Such labor is “for the sake of the gospel,” which means that any church that only does evangelism without first studying the culture in an effort to contextualize does not truly care about the gospel (228).

[Many people] still live under the myth that missions is something that happens across the world rather than across the street, and that missionaries are special people and not normal Christians. This is a sin to be repented of (230).

Too often, what is called a missional church is nothing more than a hip, trendy gathering of the disgruntled children of other churches, where few if any true conversions are experienced (232).

Countercultural living requires becoming a stakeholder in the culture (235).

Gerry Breshears, Driscoll’s co-author, does a very solid job fielding common questions after each chapter, a feature that adds to the book’s blue collar tone. Vintage Church is highly recommended.

Cross-posted on my church plant blog.



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Monday, April 13, 2009

Fourth Jason Bourne Film Slated for 2011

/film gives us an update on the consistently excellent Jason Bourne movie series:

Producer Frank Marshall updates us on the status via Twitter saying that Bourne Ultimatum/Ocean’s Twelve scribe George Nolfi “should have a draft by June” 2009 and that the film “is in the works for Summer 2011.” This of course would mean that the film would need to go into production by Summer 2010, October at very latest. “It really take long to get these scripts right! :),” admits Marshall. Marshall has previously stated that he would like to see Bourne go to South America in his next adventure, which will be the first movie not based on a Robert Ludlum novel.

The bar for action and intrigue was set so high in the first three movies that I'm almost surprised that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass are taking aim at a fourth. Not to mention that with the advent of the amazing new Bond films, any additions in the Bourne series will also have to answer to the golden 007 standard. Still, when this one drops, I will be heading to the theater.



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Monday, April 06, 2009

Asher Stalks a Banana

While Asher has adapted to the Living Room and Bedroom environments, the Kitchen is his native habitat.

Cross-posted on arieljvan.com



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Thursday, March 26, 2009

"C.S. Lewis Scholar" Now Appears on My Resume

Back in 2006, my three-year seminary education had not yet siphoned off my mental enthusiasm, and I wrote a very thorough article on C.S. Lewis‘ perspective on the Atonement—that is, on the reality and significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. Eager to share my findings with the world, I posted an excerpt on my blog.

Then, several months later, a British intellectual (allow me to flatter myself) contacted me and told me I should get the article published somewhere. I thought, Heck yeah, we could use some money to make rent. So I sent it in to Touchstone, an ecumenical theological magazine with a soft spot for Lewis scholarship. The subtitle reads, A Journal of Mere Christianity. I thought this was a good sign. The mag also happens to be endorsed by J.I. Packer, a man I greatly respect.

Then-editor David Mills replied to my query, Dear Mr. Vanderhorst, I believe we have a spot for your article. I was like, Dear Mr. Mills, Right on! At which point I eagerly and tongue-in-cheekly announced to the world that I would soon be a published theological author. But apparently these things take time.

Cut to Spring 2009. Mills had stepped down as general editor. I wasn’t told. My article languished in Supposedly Being Published Limbo. I got angry every time I thought about it, which was about once every four months, since I was busy doing other things like graduating, planting a church, and trying to make rent. Then, in January, I had my quartlerly thought about the Lewis article for the first part of 2009. I decided to throw over Touchstone and David Mills, who would not answer my emails (because he was gone) and go find another publisher.

Then, the very next day, Touchstone’s new editor contacted me, said nice things about my article, apologized profusely, and told me he wanted to get it published. Well, OK, I said. But only if you pay me more than a dollar. So we had a deal.

My Lewis article, Mere Atonement, will appear in the April edition of Touchstone, but you can read it for free online. I am planning to go read it myself in order to discover what Lewis’ perspective on the Atonement is. After all, I wrote this piece about 5 years ago. Still…better late than never!

Cross-posted on arieljvan.com.



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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NCAA Bracket Intuition: Hatred

This guy is hilarious, and captures the reason I have Duke losing to Texas and North Carolina losing to Butler. If I had the time, I'd write a column just like this. :)

Picking against Duke just because you hate Duke is ridiculous — except that in this space in 2006, I correctly used that theory to pick VCU to beat Duke in the first round. And in 2007, I correctly used that theory to pick West Virginia to beat Duke in the second round. It is, in fact, my single most successful strategy over the past few years. So until I’m proven wrong, I’ll stick with the “hate” approach. (And, let’s be honest: It is SO much more fun that way. It’s hating Duke! It’s watching them lose! It’s earning office-pool points on your bracket for hating Duke and watching them lose!)

Worked for me the last couple years as well! Also, the bit about getting gunned down by your 3-yr-old rings true. Aidan always beats me, and his strategy is devised entirely of choosing the better mascot. Some things are just not right in this world.



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I Am Not Crazy: KU Will Make the Final Four

Despite the Wall Street Journal's number-crunching, which reveals that KU had better not overlook North Dakota State, I was thrilled to discover that I'm not the only one picking the Jayhawks to make the Final Four again.

Disregard the Spock pseudonym and you'll realize this guy makes some excellent points. :)



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No Respect for Big 12 Basketball

SI.com documents the tendency of lazy national sportswriters to view the Midwest as "football country" and the tendency of East and West-coast homers on the selection committee to send Big 12 basketball teams further afield.

Of course, this is not exactly news for Big 12 fans.

I think the Jayhawks played themselves out of a Kansas City birth with late season losses to Texas Tech and Texas A&M. But the gist of the article is correct: The national NCAA spotlight always gravitates toward West and East coast teams, where most of the national media is located.

Just more incentive for KU or OK to go win a national title this year. Heck, all the Big 12 teams should do their part. For Oklahoma St and Texas A&M, that means wining one game. For Missouri and Texas, that means winning a couple.



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2009 NCAA Bracket Picks: Final Four, Championship

It's been a long road. Sweaty palms, favoritism, and excessive caffeine, offset by some very real basketball savvy, have brought us this far. (See my Round One NCAA Bracket Picks, Round Two NCAA Predictions, and Elite Eight Bracket Predictions.)

Now it's time to make maybe the hardest NCAA bracket picks of all. Who makes the Final Four? And who will be watching the Detroit games from a hotel room?

Glad you asked. Here's what happens.

In the Midwest, #3 Kansas shocks Rick Pitino, Terrance "Al Pacino" Williams, and the nation, by punching the #1 Cardinal in the mouth early and defending their margin of victory in the second half.
In the West, #1 UConn defeats #3 Missouri as the tough, defensively minded Tigers are decisively outclassed by Thabeet.
In the East, #7 Texas' massive Dexter Pitman goes toe-to-toe with DeJuan Blair and neutralizes him, and #1 Pitt has an attack of the paralyzing inconsistency that has plagued them this season.
In the South, #9 Butler upsets #2 Oklahoma, and super-talented Gordon Hayward emerges as a tournament darling.

Here's how the Final Four goes down in Detroit.
#9 Butler faces off against #7 Texas, and at this point it surprises no one when the lower seeded team pulls the upset.
#1 UConn gets the better of #3 Kansas, but only barely. Thabeet blocks a shot as the clock expires to seal the win.
Final pick.
In the 2009 National NCAA Championship, it's #1 UConn over #9 Butler, as the deeper, more balanced UConn outlasts the upstart.

So there you have it. We've predicted every round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. We made some daring upset picks, gave the favorites their due respect, and ultimately awarded the title to a team with a dominant player (Hasheem Thabeet) and a stellar supporting cast.

Good luck with your brackets!



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2009 NCAA Bracket Predictions: Elite Eight

UPDATE: My Final Four & Championship Bracket Picks are now up.

After a couple rounds of frenzied picking, we now have our Sweet Sixteen teams. (See my First Round NCAA Bracket Predictions and my Second Round Bracket Picks.) But the remaining picks will make or break our brackets. In 2008-2009, parity has been the name of the NCAA game, and with each round, winners become harder and harder to identify. It's like trying to pick out the dark horse in a group of gray horses in a huge unlit stable at dusk...if you know what I mean.

Worried yet?

Well, you shouldn't be, because everyone else is in the same boat. Let's predict our Elite Eight with bravado, and avoid those moments of tournament paralysis that can nail the best hoops fans. Got your pencil? It's too late for second-guessing now. Let's do this.

Here's who emerges in the Midwest Region.

#1 Louisville beats #4 Wake Forest. Wake is tough and loaded, but the top team in the Big East guts this one out.
#3 Kansas beats #2 Michigan St. When the Spartans and Jayhawks clashed earlier this season, Bill Self's young team got beat up. But this young KU team has gelled since then and they want payback.

Who comes out of the West? Here's who:
#1 UConn beats #5 Purdue. Purdue is hot, but the Huskies have four players averaging 13ppg. And they have Hasheem Thabeet, who wreaks havoc in the paint.
#3 Missouri beats #2 Memphis. Memphis has won 25 straight. But the Tigers are aggressive, hungry, and don't give a darn that Calipari thinks his team was disrespected. They win by 2, shocking 95% of the national pundits.

Here's how it the bracket crumbles in the East Regional.
#1 Pitt beats #5 Floridat St. FL guard Toney Douglas is a game-changer, but DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, and Sam Young put this one out of reach.
#7 Texas beats #6 UCLA. After knocking off Duke, the Longhorns are riding high, and they prove again that when all pistons are firing, they can beat anyone.

Finally, here's what happens in the South, formerly known as the "UNC Bracket."
#9 Butler beats #4 Gonzaga. Neither of these teams were favorites to reach the Elite Eight, and Butler capitalizes, riding the efforts of 6'8" guard-forward Gordon Hayward to a dark horse victory.
#2 Oklahoma beats #3 Syracuse. Fatigue finally catches up with the Orangemen, as Blake Griffin and guard sidekick Willie Warren get the better of Johnny Flynn and Co.

Coming up within the hour, Final Four and Championship bracket picks. At this point, our bracket is looking good. We've acknowledged the star power of heavy favorites like UConn and Pitt, but have called some surprising upsets as well (UNC, Memphis). And we're paying homage to the "little guy" by putting Butler in the Elite Eight (but keep in mind that Butler was in the Top 25 for much of the season).

Check back soon for the Final Four and NCAA winner, coming up. (You can bookmark or subscribe to stay posted.)

UPDATE: My Final Four & Championship Bracket Picks are now up.



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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NCAA Bracket Predictions: 2009 Second Round

UPDATE: Third Round (Elite Eight) Bracket Picks are now up.

It's a beautiful St Patrick's Day in Kansas City, and time to throw some more fuel into the NCAA buzz machine. Here are my bracket picks for the second round.

If you missed 'em, you can still scan my NCAA Bracket Predictions for the first round. Beginning in the Midwest region, here's how things will go down.

Midwest

#1 Louisville beats #9 Siena. Louisville is playing like a team of destiny.
#4 Wake Forest beats #12 Arizona. With their first round victory, Arizona proved that they belonged in the NCAAs, sorta. But that doesn't stop them from getting buzz-sawed by Wake.
#3 Kansas beats #6 West Virginia. After ending North Dakota State's Cinderella story, KU confronts another national darling of recent years. And mercilessly beats them too.
#2 Michigan St beats #10 USC. USC has been white hot lately, but they get out-toughed by the Spartans.

Here's the script for the West Region.
#1 UConn beats #9 Texas A&M. For the Aggies, just getting here was a victory. But Thabeet and the Huskies have bigger fish to fry.
#5 Purdue beats #4 Washington. Purdue is rolling, in this very minor upset.
#3 Missouri beats #6 Marquette. Here's where the loss of Dominic James catches up with the Golden Eagles, and where MU's tandem of Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll take over.
#2 Memphis beats #7 California. Memphis plays their "can't get no respect" card yet again for a 10 point win.

In the East, here's what happens.
#1 Pitt beats #9 Oklahoma St. The Cowboys put up a fight, but Blair is too much of a load inside.
#5 Florida St beats #4 Xavier. Xavier is on a roll. FL St is hotter.
#6 UCLA beats #6 Villanova. Collison and the Bruins are just hitting their tournament stride.
#7 Texas beats #2 Duke. In the biggest upset of the second round so far. This pick isn't for the faint of heart, but the Longhorns have the guns to pull it off.

Finally, here's how the bracket develops in the South.

#9 Butler beats #1 North Carolina. Roy Williams' teams can run and gun with anyone, but they are upset prone, and Butler proves it in this shocker.
#4 Gonzaga beats #5 Illinois. In this battle between two streaky teams, Gonzaga puts together the better second half.
#3 Syracuse beats #6 Arizona St. Johnny Flynn is the Orangemen's best player, but his supporting cast steps up to put this one in the bag.
#2 Oklahoma beats #10 Michigan. Just making the tourney was a huge victory for MI, and Oklahoma sends 'em home with their token first-round win.

Coming up, regional and national semifinal picks. If you're reading this, I assume that you're already in a bracket competition somewhere, but you're also welcome to join one of mine. Sign up at the Review Journal site, then join the "public group," Downtown Kansas City.

Good luck with your bracket predictions, and stay tuned!

UPDATE: Third Round (Elite Eight) Bracket Picks are now up.



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Monday, March 16, 2009

NCAA Bracket Predictions: 2009 First Round

UPDATE: NCAA Bracket Picks for the second round are now up.

All right, we've reached the moment when I steel my nerves, peer over my bracket with wrinkled brow, and dive into the mad speculation and educated chaos of NCAA bracket picks!

As usual, I'll be taking a round at a time, and since the first round gives me 32 games to pick, any commentary will be off the cuff. Other than my pure love of the game, I'm receiving no payment for this, so consider sending me a cut of the winnings you'll undoubtedly steal from your coworkers. ;)

Now, while I have spent approximately a third of my life playing basketball and several months filling out brackets, I am an amateur--so don't bet your house on my advice. Your car, your condo, or the small shack in your backyard? Sure, but not your house. That ended badly for one dude last year.

OK, let's do this. Starting in the Midwest region, here are my bracket predictions. With a little luck, they'll help you dominate your pool, even if it is of the above-ground canvas variety.

Here's how things will go down in the Midwest Region.

#1 Louisville beats whichever poor schmuck wins the play-in. Pitino losing in the first round would be like the Godfather getting pick-pocketed.
#9 Siena beats #8 Ohio State. This one's a toss-up, and this year, in a toss-up game, I'll be typically picking the lower seed. Being the underdog is the new advantage.
#12 Arizona beats #5 Utah. Every year, a #12 beats a #5, and Arizona has the NBA athletes to pull it off. The fact that they "don't deserve to be here," in Dick Vitale's words, ensure that they win one game anyway.
#4 Wake Forest beats #13 Cleveland St. Remember when Wake was ranked number one in the country? There was a reason for that.
#6 West Virginia beats #11 Dayton. True, Huggins is greasy. But WV knows how to succeed in the tourney.
#3 Kansas beats #14 North Dakota St. The story of how North Dakota St weathered adversity and beat the odds to reach the tournament is heartwarming. But the Jayhawks know better than to overlook teams whose names start with "B." So they tear the Bisons' heart out of their chest and stomp on it.
#10 USC beats #7 Boston College. Boston College has beaten some good teams, but this match-up falls in the toss-up category, which means, you got it, we will be going with USC.
#2 Michigan St beats #15 Robert Morris. No brainer.

Here's who dies and survives in the West Region.
#1 Connecticutt beats #16 Chatanooga. This one won't be pretty.
#9 Texas A&M beats #8 BYU. A&M is better than people think.
#5 Purdue beats #11 Northern Iowa. No 12/5 upset this time. Purdue is tough.
#4 Washington beats #13 Mississippi St. This one will be closer than Washington would like, but they'll get the W.
#6 Marquette beats #11 Utah St. A lot of people think Marquette will blow this one after losing their star, Dominic James. I think they'll win for the same reason.
#3 Missouri beats #14 Cornell. Mike Anderson's squad is primed for a run in the tourney.
#7 California beats #10 Maryland. Maryland will try, but not replicate, it's surprising moments of success in the ACC.
#2 Memphis beats #15 Cal St Northridge. Tyreke Evans could almost beat CSN by himself.

Here's what transpires in the East Regional.
#1 Pittsburgh beats #16 East Tennessee. Remember that Blair guy? He won't need to pitch anyone over his back to win this one.
#8 Oklahoma St beats #9 Tennessee. It's just a bad year for Tennessee.
#5 Florida St beats #12 Wisconsin. Florida St is too hot to fall victim to the 12/5 ambush.
#4 Xavier beats #13 Portland St. Last year the Vikings got beaked by the Jayhawks, this year they get Xed.
#6 UCLA beats #11 VCU. Simply because my friend Will would hate me if I didn't advance his team through the first round. Actually, UCLA is good.
#3 Villanova beats #14 American. You've probably never heard of American. For a reason.
#7 Texas beats #10 Minnesota. This one will be a slugfest, but the Longhorns have the NBA caliber talent to pull off the victory.
#2 Duke beats #15 Binghamton. Kyle Singler is too much for the hapless Bearcats.

Finally, here's how things will go down in the South Region.
#1 North Carolina beats #16 Radford. Although they may get a scare first.
#9 Butler beats #8 LSU. Our underdog rule is back in effect here, as Butler pulls off an upset that really isn't.
#5 Illinois beats #12 Western Kentucky. Because I have several friends who are Illini fans.
#4 Gonzaga beats #13 Akron. The Bulldogs have the firepower to do some damage.
#6 Arizona St beats #11 Temple. We are close to our upset quotient for the first round, so we'll go with the favorite here.
#3 Syracuse beats #14 Stephen F. Austin. A polite Southern gentleman like Mr. Austin is no match for the tenacious Johnny Flynn.
#10 Michigan beats #7 Clemson. This is our final upset for Round 1, based purely on the fact that Michigan is so juiced about being back in the tournament after a decade in the cold.
#2 Oklahoma beats #15 Morgan St. National POY Blake Griffin takes it upon himself to ensure the Sooners advance.

Check back for the second round, regionals, and national semifinals, coming up. (You can bookmark or subscribe to stay posted.) Good luck with your own NCAA brackets, and if in doubt, take a few risks with your picks. A handful of good upset predictions never hurt!

UPDATE: NCAA Bracket Picks for the second round are now up.



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2009 NCAA Tournament Links

Great article on the chaotic euphoria/heartburn of March Madness, brackets, and the Kansas Jayhawks from the KC Star's J. Brady McCollough. Gotta give the local writers some love.

In addition, CBS' Gary Parrish has a nice piece breaking down the 2009 NCAA Tournament Bracket. Who knows, maybe some of his suggestions will make their way into my personal bracket predictions, which I'm hoping to get to later today.

What are you reading for your tournament preview?

Side note: Regular subscribers, if you've been with me for less than a year, you may not be aware that this blog transforms mid-March into an unabashed NCAA basketball site. Hopefully you're along for the ride. If not, you can go away and come back in a few weeks when the lingering smell of sweat and leather has evaporated.



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Sunday, March 15, 2009

NCAA Tournament Bracket 2009: Pick 'Em!


Update: My NCAA Bracket Predictions for the first round are now up. Check 'em!

Bam! The official NCAA 2009 Bracket has dropped, and the consensus seems to be that the committee did a good job. (You can download this bracket my right-clicking and choosing "save file as...")

It's unfortunate the little, deserving teams like San Diego St and St Mary's didn't make the cut, but hard to argue against the additional power-players that received at-large bids (Arizona, for example).

Personally, I'm enjoying the fact that six Big 12 teams made it into the Tournament. Don't know if I will be advancing Texas A&M and Oklahoma St more than one round in my bracket, but Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri are capable of doing some serious damage.

I filled out my first bracket of 2009 a minute ago at KUsports.com...and I admit, I am still waffling on whether to advance KU to the Final Four or not. The Jayhawks that waxed MU and out-punched the Longhorns could make it to Detroit, but the Jayhawks that went shaky against Texas Tech and got pummeled by Baylor would be lucky to make it past the Bisons in their first round match-up.

Look for my NCAA Tournament Bracket Predictions later this week. And let me know if there are any great bracket pools I should know about, preferably ones with plasma flat screen TVs, Vespa scooters, or lots of cash involved. ;)



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NCAA Bracket 2009: Last Call

Here's one more shot at the 2009 NCAA Bracket from the folks at Bracketology 101. Now all you need to do is get comfy, devise a bracket strategy, and wait half an hour for the selection show.

I'll hold off on commentary until the official tournament bracket drops.



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Friday, March 13, 2009

2009 NCAA Bracket: Bracketology 101


Here's another Tournament bracket from the brilliant people at Bracketology 101. This one takes into account the various conference tournament upsets that took place yesterday...so you'll notice, for example, that Kansas is a #4 seed instead of a #2 or #3. Sigh.

For my money, this is probably the best speculative 2009 bracket I've seen so far.



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2009 NCAA Bracket: ESPN

Well, it's clearly time to start up the bracket watch. The official 2009 NCAA Bracket is being developed as we speak, and will be revealed during the Selection Show on Sunday. However, that doesn't keep the nation's best and brightest bracketologists from engaging in some educated speculation.

This take is from ESPN's Joe Lunardi. The text-only bracket doesn't translate to single-column all that well, so you will have to scroll down a ways. Automatic bids are in ALL CAPS, and records are Division I only. I'll add my few, amateurish comments at the bottom.

SOUTH (Memphis)
Greensboro
(1) NORTH CAROLINA (26-3)
(16) MOREHEAD ST (17-15) / OVC
(8) Butler (25-5)
(9) Dayton (25-6)

Portland
(5) Illinois (23-8)
(12) NORTHERN IOWA (22-10) / MVC
(4) UCLA (24-7)
(13) AMERICAN (23-7) / Patriot

Philadelphia
(6) LSU (25-6)
(11) New Mexico (21-10)
(3) Villanova (25-6)
(14) ROBERT MORRIS (24-10) / Northeast

Minneapolis
(7) California (22-9)
(10) UTAH ST (26-4)
(2) Oklahoma (27-4)
(15) CORNELL (19-9) / Ivy

WEST (Arizona)
Dayton
(1) LOUISVILLE (25-5)
(16) CS NORTHRIDGE (14-13) / Big West
(8) Utah (21-8)
(9) Boston College (21-10)

Boise
(5) XAVIER (24-6)
(12) Penn State (21-10)
(4) Missouri (24-6)
(13) NORTH DAKOTA ST (24-6) / Summit

Portland
(6) Tennessee (19-11)
(11) Minnesota (20-9)
(3) WASHINGTON (23-7)
(14) EAST TENN ST (21-10) / Atl Sun

Kansas City
(7) West Virginia (22-10)
(10) Texas A&M (22-8)
(2) MEMPHIS (28-3)
(15) MORGAN ST (20-11) / MEAC

MIDWEST (Indianapolis)
Dayton
(1) Pittsburgh (27-3)
(16) Play-in Game
(8) Oklahoma St (21-10)
(9) Wisconsin (18-11)

Boise
(5) Florida St (23-8)
(12) Arizona (19-12)
(4) GONZAGA (25-5)
(13) CLEVELAND ST (22-10) / Horizon

Greensboro
(6) Syracuse (23-8)
(11) South Carolina (21-8)
(3) Duke (25-6)
(14) BINGHAMTON (21-8) / Amer East

Minneapolis
(7) Texas (21-10)
(10) SIENA (26-7)
(2) MICHIGAN ST (25-5)
(15) PORTLAND ST (20-9) / Big Sky

EAST (Boston)
Philadelphia

(1) Connecticut (27-3)
(16) BOWLING GREEN (16-12) / MAC
(8) BYU (23-6)
(9) Ohio State (20-9)

Miami
(5) Purdue (22-9)
(12) VCU (24-9) / CAA
(4) Clemson (23-7)
(13) WESTERN KENTUCKY (23-8) / Sun Belt

Miami
(6) Arizona St (22-8)
(11) Michigan (18-12)
(3) Wake Forest (24-5)
(14) STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (17-7) / Southland

Kansas City
(7) Marquette (24-8)
(10) UNLV (21-9)
(2) KANSAS (25-6)
(15) RADFORD (18-11) / Big South

As a Big 12 fan, I'm happy to see a total of six Big 12 teams in the bracket: Kansas (2), Oklahoma (2), Missouri (4), Texas (7), Oklahoma St (8), Texas A&M (10). The good news is that the number could swell to seven if Baylor succeeds in running the table and wins the Big 12 Tournament outright.

The bad news is that with yesterday's first round losses to Baylor and Oklahoma St respectively, both Kansas and Oklahoma are likely looking at #3 seeds, if they don't drop down into the bargain basement as #4 seeds. Not quite the finish either team was looking for in the Big 12 Tournament. It's unlikely that KU will be playing in Kansas City at this point.

Some great potential match-ups jump out at me, mostly in the second round. If Pitt (1) met Oklahoma St (8), the nation's top team would have a dogfight on their hands. Likewise with a Duke (3) vs Syracuse (6) face-off. As evidenced in last night's six-OT win over UConn, the Orangemen have some pit bull in them. Then, if Michigan St (2) met Texas (7), I would be tempted to smell an upset and choose the Longhorns. Same deal if West Virginia (7) squared off with Memphis (2). WV always seems to be good for an NCAA upset.

Then, in the third round, UCLA (4) vs UNC (1) would generate a lot of hoopla, and Ty Lawson would face the prospect of being out-quicked by Darren Collison. And Oklahoma vs Villanova (3), where Big 12 superiority could be put on display.

All right, I'm done for now. Keep your eyes open for more promising 2009 NCAA brackets as we approach the selection show. Never hurts to pick a bracket strategy early!



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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2009 Big 12 Bracket Predictions

OK, as promised, here are my predictions for the Big 12 Tournament (bracket) which starts tomorrow. We'll start at the beginning, with the first round games, featuring a majority of Southern Big 12 Conference teams...that's right, the Big 12 North turned out to be stronger this season, despite lots of early criticism. Ha ha.

Round 1 (Wednesday)

Baylor wins out over a scrappy Nebraska squad, the Bears desperately looking to redeem a season that was supposed to feature a deep NCAA tourney run. Baylor 65, NE 62

Texas beats Colorado handily. TX 82, CO 69

Oklahoma State beats a luckless Iowa State team en route to earning a sure NCAA bid. OSU 75, IS 54

Texas A&M beats Texas Tech in the closest game of the first round. Tech puts up a fight, but A&M is hot, and play with the confidence of a team headed for the Big Dance. A&M 69, Tech 67

Round 2 (Thursday)

Kansas crunches Baylor, beating them brutally in the post. So much for the Bears' hopes for post-season redemption. KU 85, Baylor 72

Texas beats Kansas State, because at heart the Longhorns know they are a top 25 team who has under-achieved. TX 78, KSU 69

Oklahoma hangs on to beat their Bedlam Series rival in a nail-biter. Blake Griffin, of course, is the difference maker. OK 76, OSU 74

Texas A&M beats Missouri. Again. The Aggies have the Tigers' number. A&M 81, MU 73


Round 3 (Friday)

Kansas beats Texas, but with more breathing room than last week, when the Jayhawks overcame a 14 point deficit. KU 89, TX 78

Oklahoma beats A&M, as the Aggie momentum runs up against Blake Griffin, the immovable object. OK 69, A&M 64


Tournament Championship (Saturday)

Kansas beats Oklahoma for the second time this season, but for the first time with Blake Griffin at full speed. KU's interior players--Aldrich, the Morris twins, and Mario Little--come in with a chip on their shoulder, determined not to get overshadowed, and play Griffin to a draw. The Jayhawks' superior guard play puts the game away. KU 89, OK 86


After the Big 12 Tournament concludes on Saturday (for the first time in years), the teams kick back and enjoy the selection show on Sunday. Six Big 12 teams make the cut, proving yet again that this conference does not get the national recognition it deserves. The teams everyone knew were in...

Kansas
Oklahoma
Texas
Missouri

Are joined by...

Texas A&M
Oklahoma State

Not really a down year for the Big 12 after all. Coming up next: 2009 NCAA Bracket Predictions.



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Monday, March 09, 2009

2009 NCAA Bracket Speculation

With less than a week to go before the NCAA Tournament Selection Show (March 15), the experts have free reign to start creating mock brackets...here's one from ESPN's Joe Lunardi. I'd love to see Oklahoma earn a #1 seed, but I don't think it's a done deal yet.

Any other good early brackets out there?



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Big 12 Tournament Bracket 2009

Since the Jayhawks won the Big 12 Regular Season Title outright with a come-from-behind thriller against Texas, it's now time to scan brackets for the Big 12 Tournament, which starts Wednesday.

Some people view conference tournaments as highly-charged college basketball at its best.

Others see at it more as a quick warm up for NCAA Tournament brackets.

Either way, conference tournaments cram a lot of good ball into a few days, and I wish I could be present at this one.

Team Rankings is quick to point out that, with a 30.96% shot at winning the Big 12 Tourney, KU is the odds-on favorite. However, Oklahoma will have something to say about that. As will MU, coming off the shellacking the Jayhawks handed them at Allen Field House. Texas will want revenge as well. And Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are trying to firm up NCAA Tournament spots.

Plenty of drama on tap of you love Big 12 basketball...I'll post my Big 12 Tournament predictions tomorrow.



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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

U2's New Record on Sale

If you move fast, you can grab one of the year's most anticipated music releases for $3.99. U2's first album in 5 years, No Line on the Horizon, is on sale at Amazon for the next 24 hours or so. Get it.



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Monday, March 02, 2009

Plenty of Love for U2's No Line on the Horizon


U2's latest album will be officially released March 3, but it's already pulling in the accolades. From Rolling Stone's 5-star review:

Bono knows he was born with a good weapon for making the right kind of trouble: the clean gleam and rocket's arc of that voice. "It was one dull morning/I woke the world with bawling," he boasted in "Out of Control," written by Bono on his 18th birthday and issued on U2's Irish debut EP.

He is still singing about singing, all over No Line on the Horizon, U2's first album in nearly five years and their best, in its textural exploration and tenacious melodic grip, since 1991's Achtung Baby.

Just so you know.



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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Bob Dylan Album Coming Up

Via Back to Rockville comes this notice that a new Bob Dylan record is on the way. Lifted directly:

Bob Dylan looks set to release an album of entirely new material in late April. Ten new tracks are expected for the record, which was reportedly recorded in California in October of last year.

The songs have been mixed and sequenced and playbacks are believed to have recently taken place in Sony’s European offices. An Autumn release date was originally suggested but it is understood this was brought forward to coincide with the final stages of Dylan’s upcoming European tour.

According to Dylan fansite Isis, Dylan was approached to write the soundtrack to forthcoming film ‘My Own Love’ song, starring Renee Zellweger and Forest Whitaker. Supposedly, when Dylan went into the studio he was so impressed with the results he decided to record his own album of new material. It is also believed that not all the musicians on the new release are from Dylan’s current touring band.

Nice...Dylan was so impressed with his own music that he decided he wasn't ready to hang it up yet. In a hardcore poet and artist, you gotta like that.

Of course, I am one of those people who thinks that if you don't appreciate Dylan, there are probably deeper issues in your life. So yes, I am kind of pumped. Bob Dylan's latest record to date, Modern Times, was a fantastic late-career album, in my opinion. Can't wait to see what he pulls off with the next one.

The million dollar question is whether he will title it Postmodern Times? OK, probably not.



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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Blood, Gore & Orthodoxy!

I’m a huge fan of online book shopping, and have been ever since I discovered that by surfing Amazon I could prevent my college book store from ripping me off to the tune of $100-200 a semester…a trend that continued in seminary. Tuition is enough of a donation, right?

However, when someone gives me a gift card to Barnes & Noble or Borders, I can easily get lost in there for a couple hours. Yesterday I found myself on the plaza with some downtime on my hands, so I hit up the local B&N. I walked out with a couple books that should make for some great reading.

Agincourt. One of the great come-from-behind victories in history gets a gritty fictional treatment from Bernard Cornwell in this new bestseller. How did the British underdogs pull off an amazing W against the French at Agincourt? Well, you can read Shakespeare’s Henry V (possibly my favorite Shakespeare play), watch Kenneth Branagh’s great film version, check a history book…or read this one. Cornwell embellishes his character’s backstory, but the historical data is for real. Probably not for the faint of heart though. If Finding Private Ryan, Gladiator or Braveheart made you gag, don’t pick this one up. Medieval warfare was nasty.

Orthodoxy. I’ve read and raved about G.K. Chesterton’s superb book before. But this is a book you re-read…and own multiple copies of. I’ve been coveting this hardback, large print, wide-margin edition for a couple years, so when I spotted it, I went ahead and grabbed the only copy I found in the store. If you haven’t yet read this one, expect adventure, humor, biting dialogue, romance, suspense…and all this in a “theology” book. C.S. Lewis comes the closest, but probably no one will ever match Chesterton’s passionate knack for revealing the bright, terrifying, stunning reality in which we live.

Bought any good books lately?

Cross-posted on arieljvan.com.



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Friday, January 30, 2009

The temperature broke 30 degrees yesterday...


And Aidan and I started practicing our jump shots.

[Honesty compels me to admit this shot was from December '08. Cross-posted on arieljvan.com.]



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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2008

After talking about it for weeks I'm finally posting my Top Ten Albums of 2008. Yeah, it's technically a little late...yearly top 10 lists typically appearing at the end of the year in question. But why get hung up on chronology? These are the albums that dominated the Vanderhorst airwaves last year, and will continue to get tons of play. And while I'm not a famous expert music critic, YES--I think it's safe to say that these albums deserve a shot at making your playlists.

How did I finalize this list? By throwing the contenders in an unordered list and then moving them up and down according to their relative merits? That's right, you guessed it. After a few years of this approach, I have it down to a science. Cover art will take you to Amazon where you can fill out your collection while donating about 4% to this blog. We sure appreciate all those dimes.

Here we go.

10. Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie. DCFC haven't released a bad album in almost a decade, and while Narrow Stairs had its slow moments, the highlights ("Grapevine Fires," "No Sunlight") more than atoned.
9. Viva la Vida by Coldplay. Coldplay pulled a remarkable trick, producing a highly anticipated album that satisfied their own expectations as well as those of their international fan base.
8. Dear Science by TV on the Radio. Crackling with energy, this is smart, layered Indie rock at its best.
7. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. Friends Cawley and McCoy absolutely love this album, and I do too--Bon Iver's whispery voice and cathartic lyrics earned this one a lot of play...if not my number one spot.
6. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend. Clever lyrics, dancy African vibes, and a clear, direct sound. Aidan and Asher want to know, What's not to like?
5. You and Me by The Walkmen. Omnipresent twangy electric guitars and Hamilton Leithauser's twangy voice, seasoned with acoustic variety, resulted in an album that grew and grew on me.

4. Third by Portishead. Described by Lindsay as "weird and trippy," Third probably does fall in those categories, but that's a good thing. This album is carefully textured, mysterious, and sometimes beautiful.




3. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes. Stately acoustic settings and lingering melodies. This self-described "baroque harmonic pop jams" outfit has ridiculous talent.
2. Rook by Shearwater. These sweeping, stripped down songs are poetry set to epic music.

1. Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow. Landing somewhere between Radiohead and Coldplay stylistically, Elbow further established their unique identity with this one, killing us with exceptional hooks and lyrics. Aidan and Lindsay added their accolades, and Elbow gained the popular vote. If you haven't heard "Grounds for Divorce" yet, go play it right now.

Here are the also-rans: Carried to Dust by Calexico, In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy, Limbs And Branches by Jon Foreman, The Rhumb Line by Ra Ra Riot, You Are My Sunshine by Copeland, Perfect Symmetry by Keane. I was tempted to expand the field to fit Copeland and Keane in--that's how close it was.

So, what albums am I missing?

(Cross-posted on arieljvan.com)



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