Thursday, August 31, 2006

Reconnecting: Friends, Food, and Faith

Just last week I was fortunate enough to catch up with a dear friend, Celena, and her family. Somehow we'd allowed seven years to pass between our seeing each other although we'd maintained contact through the marvelous medium that is e-mail. Our history as friends tracks back so far, to elementary school, and we've shared so many good and bad times. It's really interesting to see how much our lives change, as well as our mindsets, as we've grown older. Both of us would admit, I think, that at one point in our lives we were simply young and ignorant. We made dumb decisions, held to wrong assumptions, and were really just naive. Yet now, a little older and hopefully a little wiser, we've both come to see the world through a new set of eyes. It was a great time to share with each other what has occurred in the past bit of time, to introduce our families, and to simply discuss life in general. It's really funny how that when you're young, discussing "big" topics like religion or whatnot seem to be just stupid (especially if like me you grew up in a fundie church that told you what you needed to know!) or at the very least, not worthy of your time, but now that we're older, those are the very things in our hearts. We did have a really cool conversation regarding the church and the new ideas and views I've been exposed to involving it.

I'm thankful for friends like, Celena, whom I can just pick right back up with. Tonight I'm going to try to reconnect with another friend who has been more than patient with me in waiting for him to touch base with him after Peyton's birth. Either way, it's nice to be around people who you have history with and who care.

Review: St. Elsewhere - Gnarls Barkley

We were admittedly late getting to this one at INFUZE but thankfully that error has been corrected. Check it out!

St. Elsewhere - Gnarls Barkley

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Overheard in Our Home Sunday Afternoon.

After approximately thirty seconds of fingerpainting....

Tyler: "I don't ever want to fingerpaint again. Never again!"

There go our hopes for an art scholarship....

A Bit of Melancholy

Recently I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend just a short while after we had finished up our time in high school. The two of us had grown up together in the same fundamental church and were just beginning to spread our wings a bit. We weren't terribly close but that didn't stop us from heading out to a local Denny's one evening for some "Moon Over My Hammy" and good conversation. What sticks out most about that conversation was one point my friend made. He said:

"I don't want to go through life having experienced nothing. I want to experience it all, the ups and downs, the pain and joy. That's real life too me."

Our conversation continued and I tried to label him crazy. I understood what he was saying but, well, I'm not all about the downs and the pain. I think they suck. And while they perhaps make us better people, refined people, people who have been there and done that, I still don't particularly want to experience those things.

Well, in recent days that conversation has come back to me. I've long since long touch with this friends but those words have rang loud and clear in my ears lately. Somehow, deep down, I think that perhaps my friend has gotten his wish. As I've observed my life, as well as the lives of others, it appears as though we all experience those things, the horror of loss, the thrill of small and large defeats. Life is filled with a brutal menagerie of those very experiences. Those of us claiming to be Christ-followers can frame those things in a setting of God's will and sovereignty but that still leaves the sting to be dealt with. In good times there remains a temptation to claim the glory for yourself and in the bad is the yearning to scream at God, accusing Him of all the wrong there is, begging for release.

It's a strange place to be, this life. I'm in a place right now where I can't really find which way is up and I wish that were not so. I'm frustrated by the downs and desperately am hoping for a revival of the ups. I might do some screaming at God but am thankful that His grace is sufficient for even my frailty and foolishness.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Review: Chasing Francis

Here's a review I wrote for a book entitled, Chasing Francis, for Infuze. Check it out!

Chasing Francis Review

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pics from Peyton Place

Tummy time with big brother, Tyler!

Holding the high notes...

You've gotta love me!

A Couple of Tales from the Frontlines

I've had a couple of unique experiences, at least to me, this past week and thought I'd share them. Both of them gave me cause for thought and that's never a bad thing, although the situations themselves are not necessarily so squeaky clean.

The first experience I had was of being invited to church. Now, this is not some sort of watershed moment, as I've been invited to church before. But, in a certain way, this time was different. I think it, in some way, allowed me to see the other side of the spectrum for a moment. I mean, I grew up in church. I was always the one inviting friends to youth group or to some special shindig we were doing, oftentimes with the thinking of getting them there to get them "saved". I'm not sure but it was a surreal experience having this person suggest their church to me, commenting on the fact that they're "casual, but not disrespectful" and that the teaching is "solidly biblical". I was flattered that they would ask/suggest, but in all honesty, I'm okay right now. God is leading me where I'll go. I don't know. I know that someday I'll be back in the position of inviting people to church in some way or another, although my motivations will most likely be different from those of my younger days, but it was just kind of weird.

The other situation was a story and reaction related to me by a young girl that I work with. This young lady is as sweet as they come and is passionate about her faith. As I spoke with her, late in the day, she related to me a quick story that had just come her way.

"My friend, Mitch," she said,"He came in here and bought a Bible and some tracts and stuff like that. He took it down to the CVS to give it to some guy and got kicked out! Isn't that awesome? That's so hardcore!"

Um, no. I suggested that she find out the rest of the story and go from there. Turns out, "Mitch" had apparently spoken with this guy that worked at the store a few times here and there and "possibly" about some matters of faith. Yet, when Mitch presented this gentleman with the Bible and these tracts and whatnot, the guy showed him the door. Maybe I'm getting softer in my understanding of evangelism and all of that good stuff but to me, this is not hardcore. Rather, this is an error in judgement. "Mitch" no doubt intended this to be good, but it went very awry.

Perhaps what was most painful though was my friend's response after I shared some very reserved comments on the issue.

"Well, it's just important that Mitch was obedient to his heart. That's the important thing."

I don't know. Maybe it's just me, but I think the important thing is that we love people and let the power of Christ, through love, be seen in us. That provides us the platform and the right to share the Gospel. But that's just me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Thoughts from "How (Not) to Speak of God"

I'm about halfway through Peter Rollins' book, How (Not) to Speak of God, and am just totally enthralled. The basic tagline from the back of the book is that this book will help us to "explore the philosophical and theological underpinnings of the emerging church movement". It's heady stuff and there are some parts that I've had to stop and re-read for a moment to ensure that I grasped the flow but, all in all, it's a really good and insightful read. I particularly appreciate how Rollins deals with the paradoxical natures of Scripture, allowing for that type of dynamic tension that many times we just throw away with the bathwater and for our better "peace of mind". Anyway, I've shared one quote from the book on the blog already but, well, I'm going to share a few more. I'm up for discussion on this stuff if anyone wants to dialogue!

On the paradoxical nature of the Scriptures, i.e. God of war - God of peace, etc... - "Evidently such conflicts were not judged to be a problem but were accepted. Indeed, such fissures help to prevent us from forming an idolatrous image of God, ensuring that none of us can legitimately claim to understand God as God really is. Consequently the text bars any attempt at colonization by individuals or groups who claim to possess an insight into its true meaning."

From the chapter, "A/theology as Icon"... - " is precisely God's participation with us that allows us to understand that God is beyond understanding. Returning again to the analogy of a painting, those in the emerging conversation understand that what unites Christians is not that we somehow grasp the true meaning (another way of saying 'my meaning') of the painting, as if it can be reduced to a singular message, but that we are seduced and transformed by it."

On the virtue of doubt... - "Only a genuine faith can embrace doubt, for such a faith does not act because of a self-interested reason (such as fear of hell or desire for heaven) but acts simply because it must. A real follower of Jesus would commit to him before the crucifixion, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, and after the resurrection."

There's so much more but I don't want to infringe on any copyright laws. If you're even remotely interested, go out and get the book.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Recent Reads

Taking a page off of Marko's blog, and to break the silence of this blog while I have a moment, I thought I would share with you just a few of the books I've had the time and opportunity to read in the past couple of weeks.

First up, Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger's great book, Emerging Churches. This is by far the best and most unprejudiced read on the subject I've seen. Highlighting nine key elements that seem to be common threads among those in the movement, the authors offer insights and comments from church leaders and practitioners not only from the U.S., but abroad as well. It's nice to see something fairly unbiased about the movement that covers the material so well and really leaves the conclusions up to the reader. Of particular interest for me was the chapter that dealt with the idea of the sacred and secular divide and the desire of emerging churces to work toward redeeming that. This has been on my mind quite a lot lately and the concept of our viewing the handiwork of the Creator in all that we come into contact with, of seeing every avenue of life as sacred, is a powerful one.

After that, it was time for something a little more lighthearted. Enter Christopher Moore's, Practical Demonkeeping. For my more fundie friends, no, this is not a book about calling down the power of Satan. Rather, it's a fanciful tale of a young man and the demon, Catch, that is assigned to him through a bizarre series of events. The plot is not the easiest to describe in three pithy lines but, as usual, Moore offers up his signature brand of quirky storyline, character driven happenings, and great humor. It's good stuff for a nice late summer read.

Lastly, for now, I finally had the chance to read Chuck Palahniuk's seminal work, Fight Club. It was the movie that drew me into Palahniuk's other works but for some reason I had just not read this one yet. If you've seen the film, you know what it's about. And like always, the book is just a bit better. The thing that I appreciate about Palahniuk is that he has much of the same characteristics of Moore in that he has quirky and character driven stories with generally a nice sense of humor but he also has a keen eye on society. Each and every work of his I've read is essentially a fictional treatise on the ills of society but framed in such a great way. Many of us in the Church would do well to read and heed Chuck's insights here.

All for now.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Quote of the Day

"God is not a theoretical problem to somehow resolve but rather a mystery to be particpated in."

Taken from Peter Rollins' book, How (Not) To Speak of God

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Recommended Listening...

The Emergent podcast this week features Brian McLaren speaking at the Emergent Conference in 2003 prior to our going to war with Iraq. Brian offers some compelling thoughts on the issues of peace and war that are well worth your time. Check it out!

Emergent Podcast - McLaren on Peace and War

I'd be thrilled to hear your thoughts. I might add some of my own a bit later when I've a dash more time!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Melts a father's heart....

What Were They Thinking?

This is insanely funny...and just wrong! Wackadoo church signs! I love the first one!

Church Sign Craziness!

(HT: Bob Hyatt)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Darth Vader, God, & Me

Just last week my son and I were playing and at some point in our time together my son asked me whether or not one of his action figures was a "good guy" or a "bad guy". I replied that he was in fact a "bad guy" and Tyler proceeded to agree vehemently with me. "Yeah, Daddy," he said, head nodding vigorously, "He's a bad guy! We don't want to be his friend". At the time, this didn't really register with me but as time has passed, I've thought back on this moment more and more.

We as people, and it seems even more so as evangelical Christians, like things black and white. The whole "red state, blue state" dictomomy did not phase us in the least. In fact, we were just bummed that there weren't more red ones. Yet, the more I ponder and think upon the issue, life just isn't that simple. We're not that easy to define.

Case in point: Darth Vader. Now, we all know Darth Vader as the dark, menacing Sith lord of the Empire. Clearly, as a rule, Vader was not a nice guy. His subordinates cringed in his presence and many ended up pulling uselessly at their collars as Vader but the Sith choke hold on them. I mean, this was a guy that was even willing to be okay with the death of his own son! Not a nice guy.

But the story doesn't end there. In fact, it's far from over. Because, the very son who Vader sought to destroy, whom he brought to the Emperor, the nastiest of the "bad guys", saw some good in him. And, Vader the "bad guy" ends up becoming Vader the "good guy". "There is good in him," Luke Skywalker confides to his sister, Leia. And in fact he is right.

Is this not the way of all humans? Are we not all an amalgamation of good and evil? This does not imply that we are in any way, shape, or form worthy of holiness. This holiness comes only through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Yet, as we interact with one another, are we so callous to view one another as either the "good guy" or the "bad guy"? Do we look to our Muslim, Buddhist, or even atheist neighbor and view them as the "bad guy"? I'm not talking about agreeing with these people. What I am talking about is acknowledging them as people, as Christ even, and loving and caring for them as we would like to be cared for. I am talking about offering these people the very same grace with which we have been presented, a grace that accepts people where they are at and sees in them not only the evil, the depravity, but also the divine fingerprints of the Creator upon them. Then, and only then, may we truly live out the way of Jesus.

Just Another Day in Paradise...

Some pics from a quick beach trip we took last week...It's okay, be jealous of our lovely beaches!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 More Ways Than One

Yesterday I found myself exposed, in more ways than one. Let me explain. For several months now, about three to be exact, I've developed, albeit slowly, these weird dry patches on my skin. I honestly thought nothing of it until they began multiplying and, late last week, itching. I can deal with some red, dry spots but not the itching. So, a visit to my family doctor and the suggestion to see a dermatologist later, there I was.

The first point of exposure I'd like to share is somewhat, well, unsettling. I'm not the sort of person to put on airs. Those who know me best know me as a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy. I'm not a fashion plate to say the least. Yet, here I was, directions to the Lakewood Ranch Dermatology Offices in hand, changing my shirt and shoes in the car. "Why?" you ask. I'm not real sure. There's really nothing wrong with our work shirts and such. They're actually quite nice as compared to some. They're even button-down! Woo hoo! But, I don't know. Something within me was just a little obsessed with making a good first impression. I don't understand why but here I was, dry skin thing and all, changing into a decent polo and sandals in the car before heading over to the office. I'm not sure why but I'm just a little concerned about it.

Well, you get what you pay for. My idiotic worries about making a good first impression were shot completely to hell as I entered into the offices. It was quite a pleasant experience in the waiting room but then they called my name. A young fellow by the name of Jamie led me back to my room where we went through the requisite weight and height check and he went over my chart with me, asking me why I was there in spite of the fact that it was written on the chart. Then, he said the words that caused me alarm.

"Here's a drape for you. Go ahead and take your shirt and pants off and she'll be in shortly."

Welcome to the world of discomfort. I'm already saddled with a skin issue. Now this kid wants me to strip down to my skivvies and wait for the doctor. Plus, let's be honest. I'd have no problem with this if I was freakin' Brad Pitt. Sure I'd have the skin thing, but at least I'd be Brad Pitt with a skin thing! It really couldn't get any worse. That's what I thought, anyway.

The doctor entered shortly thereafter, as promised, and I sat, drape pulled up around me like a sheet. We exchanged pleasantries, no doubt easier for her seeing that she was fully clothed and holding a clipboard. Then she asked me to get up on the exam table. I obliged and she proceeded to dictate all of my follicular imperfections to my new friend, Jamie. Having me sit up, she asked me some questions about the issue as well as some regarding family history. Then, she asked the question that really sealed my day.

"Do you have any of these dry spots on your buttocks?", she asked. I swear I detected an evil grin in there somewhere.

"No," I replied, concern filling my face, "Everything is A-Ok back there!"

She seemed to believe me and internally, I prayed for the visit to end quickly as she prodded and probed some more. Finally, she asked me to stand so she could check the spots on my back and legs a bit closer. In hindsight, no pun intended, this was clearly a trick. Because before I knew it she's muttering something like, "I just want to check one more thing...", and is popping the elastic on my boxers in order to check out the aforementioned buttocks! I did not need this extra bit of humiliation. The visit ended soon and I sulked out, avoiding all eye contact.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Thank you, Scot McKnight...

I've spent the past several years wrestling with a number of new ideas and issues regarding my faith. As I've found myself, and I realize it's a buzzword now but, emerging out of the traditional faith of my fathers to embracing something new and potentially far more ancient and true, I've found solace in the writings and offerings from the friendship known as Emergent. It's the authors, speakers, and practitioners associated with this growing movement that have helped to expand my horizons of thought, provide me a safe place to hurt and question, and who have prompted and encouraged me to explore. In fact, in the early winter of my discontent, it was the works of men like Dan Kimball, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, and the venerable Brian McLaren who have taught me so much. For that I am truly thankful.

That having been said, I've come to admit to myself that I've been swinging along the pendulum from one side to another. I've allowed some of my wanderings to take me to a place where I found myself affirming some points that I really didn't agree with. So, now, I'm thankful to a man like, Scot McKnight, who has helped to pull me out of my intellectual slumber.

I've followed recently McKnight's blog review of Spencer Burke's new book, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity. Apparently, the book delves into the area of discussing a growing theme among some emerging thinkers, that of universalism, or the idea that all will be saved. Now, let me say that I would love for this to be true, but I just don't think it is. As I affirm the truths of the Bible, I cannot reconcile the teachings of Christ with the ideaology of universalism. And McKnight, a friend of Burke's, calls him out on this.

My thanks to Scot are two-fold. First, thank you, Scot, for showing us that we can take a stand. Your intelligent, honest, and solid conviction over the things of the Bible as they compare to the thinking of man have encouraged me to snap out of some of the fog I've been in and to start really thinking again. In some ways, I suppose I traded one sort of dogma for another and need to learn to live in the middle ground. My second point of thanks comes in acknowledging the way you have engaged your disagreements. You were honest, fair, and humble. This is a great example to all of us who hope to one day be used in such a way. Thanks for representing the best of what Emergent has to offer!

A Conversation From Work This Week...


Here's a dash of a conversation I had with a friend at work today:

Rich: "So, Charlotte (his wife) is going to this leadership thing later this week..."

Me: "Yeah?"

Rich: "...and she was telling me who all was going to be there. You'll never guess who one of the speakers is."

Me: "Who?"

Rich: "Sonny Bono! She said Sonny Bono is supposed to be one of the speakers! I couldn't figure out what he was doing there!

Me: "Uh, Rich?"

Rich: "What?"

Me: "Sonny Bono's dead. He had a bad run-in with a tree. Do you think you're maybe talking about Bono?"

Rich: "Who's Bono?"


Monday, August 07, 2006

Heard From My Wife Last Week...

Erin told me this story when I got home from work last Friday afternoon:

"So we had to swing by my work after we stopped to see you and then we were going to go grab a quick bite to eat. So, we were in my office and I was letting Tyler use the phone to call Joni (a friend of ours who works with Erin) while there. So I walked over to Jamie's office real quick (Erin's boss who shares an adjoining office) and was talking to her. Next thing I know, I walk back into my office and Tyler's just jammering away. He had called the plant president's line! Luckily, his receptionist/secretary had gotten the call and thought it was a practical joke being played by one of the other employees. She kept saying, "Who is this?", and Tyler, serious as ever, whispered, "I'm Batman".

That's my boy!

A Change in the Weather...

Have you ever been in one of those seasons in your life when you could sense that your life was about to change? It's almost palpable, the feeling. The air you breathe tastes different, the colors around you seem to have changed. It's a difficult phenomenon to explain but is true nonetheless. I'm in that sort of state.

The reason I share this is two-fold. The first is blatantly obvious. I've finally finished my undergraduate degree and am seeking out where I might go from here. And, as a subsequent portion of that, I'm also knocking loudly on the door to thirty, being only fifteen short days away from moving my life into yet another phase. But the real thing that has drawn my attention and made me think is the people I've randomly run into this past week or so. First, it was an old employer. We hadn't seen each other in a good couple of years. Then, it was a woman who, while I was growing up, was very much like a second mother to me. Then, an old volleyball friend I hadn't seen in a long, long time. Another was a girl that I used to go to high school with and who dated one of my good friends. The list goes on.

I'm not sure why this voyage back into the past has me anticipating change. It could just be part and parcel of the season I'm in right now, of questioning and seeking direction in many phases of life. Or, just maybe, I'm right and my life is about to change. Only time will tell. We'll just wait and see.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Joshua Radin Review

Here's the link to my review on Joshua Radin's album, We Were Here.

We Were Here - Joshua Radin

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

False Alarm...

Okay, whew...It's been a whirlwind day or two here in the humid Southeast! Had a little scare last night but, (Can I get an amen?!) I was fortunate enough to get a call around eleven this morning telling me that my worries were all in vain. I had more than enough credits and am done!

Just thought I'd share. Now that all that stuff is over, I'm hoping to share some weighter topics here in the next couple of days. Got some stuff on my mind regarding some theology, some church stuff, and just because I'm still living it, some parenting stuff as well!

Oh, the Humanity!

Some of you might be old enough, or young enough, depending, to remember the classic episode of Saturday morning drama, Saved by the Bell, in which the group was nearing their high school graduation from Bayside. But, what's that? Zach's in trouble! Our dear hero, Zach Morris, is a few credits shy and will not be able to walk! Of course, the show reconciles itself through Zach diving into a wonderful ballet production and gaining his credits in order to walk. Wow. Just like real life.

Y'know, I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek but it seems that sometimes, life will be forced to become just a hair closer to fiction that we'd like. Last night as I drove the one and a half hour commute to what I thought was to be the last class of my undergraduate career, I sat with my classmates and we shared the relief that now rested upon us now that this long awaited time had come. Until we were handed a bundle of papers. One of those stapled together manifestos included an "unofficial" collection of our credits. As I read over mine, according to this calculation of Satan that I am 2 credits shy of the 126 required for graduation. Damn. This is not good. Not good at all.

So, I have a phone call, email, prayer, and whatever other communication feature that's come to mind in with the school and the Good Lord upstairs. Needless to say, I'm a wee bit bummed until I hear that it's all gonna be all right.