Tuesday, September 30, 2008

now who's the nerd?


So I gotta admit, technology is pretty fascinating. As if being a regular blogger weren't enough...
Here are my guilty steps towards nerd-dom lately:

1. Adium (for MAC), and Pidgin (for PC). Using these multi-client chat programs, you can log on to yahoo, MSN, AIM, Myspace, Facebook, Google talk, and most other programs out there. All on one single buddy list. It makes it easier when you're a youth pastor and everyone prefers a different mode of chatting.

2. Twitter. You know how Facebook allows you to change your "status", and everyone can see what you're up to? Imagine being able to update a status from anywhere on your cell phone, and anyone who subscribes via their cell phone will receive the update. They can also simply receive the update on their twitter homepage. Create an account, you'll love it...and follow me: pastorwick

3. I Twitter my Facebook and my blog. You can connect twitter to your facebook account, so that your facebook status updates automatically whenever you twit. You can also create a small section of your blog (see right column) that updates whenever you twit.

4. Cha-Cha. You can text ANY question on ANY subject, ANY time of the day. A REAL person will search for the answer on the internet (if it's factual), or make one up on the spot (if it's an opinion). You can access the service on your cell phone by texting to 242-242 (cha-cha), or going to the link here. For proof of my nerdiness, I've just texted them the question, "How nerdy am I?".....to which they've sent the response: "My magic 8 Ball says the outlook is not so good."

5. I think I've read more books in the past year than all 4 years in college combined.

Well, guess I still have a long way to go. I actually have friends who know what linux is, and why it's awesome. As long as I still have them, I suppose my nerdiness is simply a mild infection. Nothing serious, yet.

Monday, September 29, 2008

kudos?

If you were looking forward to watching reruns of "Barnyard" during this past Saturday afternoon, you may have noticed something about the programming for Nickelodeon that day.

There was none.

That's right, this past Saturday, from Noon until 3pm, Nickelodeon went off the air. Instead of regular scheduled incredible animated reruns, it was a black screen that reminded families to go outside and be active. To enjoy the weather, and do something off the couch.

I'd like to say we smiled, looked at each other, and said, "wow, Nickelodeon is right, we should go walk laps around the neighborhood." But we didn't. I can't remember exactly what we did...but it probably didn't burn too many calories. It happened during Addison's naptime anyways.

The skeptic side of me wondered what sort of upgrades Nickelodeon had to do to their systems, or what other hidden benefit they had to going off air for 3 hours.

But overall, I was pleasantly surprised. And if there was some sentiment of self-sacrifice for the good/health of the kids who usually are babysat by burning Nickelodeon images into their retinas...then bravo. I think it's that kind of mentality that major corporations, entire product lines, and the economy in general needs to be able to take. To make sacrifices more often, to encourage/promote not themselves, but actual healthy and responsible lifestyles.

But not once in the lifetime of a company/channel/person. A regular happening. I guess this is the 4th annual one for Nickelodeon. Which is great, but still....to make a sacrifice once a year probably doesn't hurt them much.

To the neglect of profits, and with larger picture interests in mind. I hope we continue to see things like this. Thanks Nick.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dekker - hopefully an exception, not his direction...

Finally finished Ted Dekker's newest book, "Sinner". It took me longer than usual for a Dekker book, although not because it was difficult to read. I think I just had more stuff going on this week than usual. Although I have to admit, his formula seems to be repeating itself.

The book takes place like 30 years from now, and "tolerance" has become the new trend. Muslims have replaced Christians as the religious base in America, and both are seen as weak for their dependency on religion as a crutch. Religion is relegated to private locations, and rarely seen or heard. Especially after a new law is passed (through mind controlling the senate/etc.) that calls any declaration of faith a "hate crime" against those of any other or no faith.

The whole basis of the book sounds like it came out of Grandma Conservatives' fear closet.

Unfortunately, I'm sure many Christians will read this book, and freak out, thinking, "Oh my word, this could totally happen". You can read an interview with Dekker (on the 700 club, oh man...does he still want people to read his book? ) People will think they need to fight for free speech rights, and fight for the right to party with Jesus and all that.

Someone might even look at this, that happened recently, and use it as fodder for the point. But we can all recognize that this is NOT a statement of love, and not something Christians should be involved in.

The truth is, as much as tolerance WILL probably become something important over the next 50 years, I don't think we need to be afraid. Unless we're Ted Dekker, in which case we might want to fear what our involvement with CBN will do to our readership.

Then again, looking at the article on his website, I dunno. It takes examples of high school students wearing offensive (even to me) shirts, and says "look, the government is shutting down free speech!!".

Yes, people in other places of the globe suffer for claiming Christ. They have in the past, they do today. We need to be in prayer for them. But I would assume even the Atheist community in America would stand on their behalf. Our constitution will not be changed anytime soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Holiness: between the pages...

So in the midst of reading some really great thoughts/insights on Holiness, I'm reminded that words hardly convey what all is actually involved. The closest we get in our discussions involve specific situations and lives involved in the Holiness of God being revealed in our world.

Stories of grace, of inclusive love, of living according to the Kingdom of God that is here, yet unseen. Proclaiming it's existence. Revealing it. Making it seen. This Kingdom that exists by a different way. This is not social status. This is not planning ahead for success or growth. This is not trying really hard and stressing out to become a recreation of any church body that has existed before. This is the Kingdom of Love. Fueled/given Life by the very Spirit of Jesus.

It is found in small things. In letting someone ahead of you in line. In using coupons, not so you can get tons of stuff, but so that you have something to share. In sharing a moment of humanity with someone the world passes by; not out of pity, but out of community. In slowing down, opening the sunroof, and recognizing your place in the whole of creation that proclaims the existence of God's reign and rule.

It is found in large things. In forgiving the unforgivable. In letting go of debts. In deciding something very large as a community that communicates grace to even one person. In sacrificing your desires/wants or even your view of "how things should be" to reveal God's Love to someone else...even if they think you're just a loon.

All of this sounds mushy. Like either I'm a hippy with my flip-flops up on the desk smokin' some love-bud....or I'm a momma's boy who's way too in touch with emotions, and I need to go hunting and skin an animal or somethin'. I should probably read a book about how being a man is all about being a "hero", and "rescuing princesses". How I've been created as that kind of adventure seeking testosterone pumped hairy chested football loving beer can smashing feller for God.

But I'm not smokin' anything, no longer a momma's boy ( I think I was for a bit), and I think Sarah Palin is probably more manly than I'll ever be. I'm cool with that.

No worries, I'm not gonna run around giving hugs and passing out flowers. But the fact that God's Kingdom has a LOT to do with the kind of love mentioned previously is definitley having an impact on my life.

analytical fun...

So in the midst of my crazy "blogging-almost-daily" for the past month or so, I've realized some trends in my blog readers.

Things like:

I average around 20 to 40 hits per day.

More visits from CA to my blog this month (95) than TN (42). But people from TN spent more time (56 sec. avg.) than CA (10 sec. avg.)

You don't enjoy reading about what I'm reading. (for the most part) Days where I talked about either "Holiness" or "Crime and Punishment" were significantly lower readership than the blog I posted about flip flops.

Friendly Atheist gave me my largest readership EVER (for a day, thanks Hemant), thanks to his blog about my blog. I totaled 478 visits that day!!! But on average, I usually only get 7 a month from being listed on his "blogroll" as a believer.

Most of you find this blog either through my wife's blog, or through our church's website.

Someone actually found my blog by searching for "dont stop a-rockin to the bang bang boogie" on google. (I tried it...didn't work for me....weird)

51% of you use Firefox, 40% use Internet Explorer and need to be saved.

Most of my Canadian traffic comes from Edmonton.

All in all - thanks for reading. Also to my 20 subscribers (sign up on the right!), I wouldn't want to forget them....I'm glad each of you is inclined to somehow connect to what is going on in my brain/life. :) God bless all 820 unique visitors from this past month.

And thanks to Google Analytics for helping me know all this. :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Holiness: Jesus and "Good News" (Part Two)

So how does Bishop Kendall suggest that Jesus-centered "scriptural" Holiness can be spread in a renewed way? He gives 7 points here: (in my own words)

1. Jesus didn't use the language most associated with holiness in his day. It had been corrupted, and we might do good to check ourselves as to the language/pictures we use ourselves today.

2. The primacy of love found in Jesus threatened the Spiritual status quo by being radically inclusive. We need to return to Christ-like love, offered to all.

3. The lack of "steps towards Holiness" or "how it works" in the Gospel doesn't mean common patterns of life experience won't be observable; but it does reveal to us we may err in our need to "get it right". When looking for a common model/pattern, we should observe the life/death/love of Christ.

4. Jesus seemed to approach each disciple according to their needs "tailor-made". We would do good to shift from focusing on where we "are", and milestones achieved; to the way and the goal of the journey themselves. Each of us has unique experiences that may not match up to a given "formula".

5. "Jesus' way of love is grasped and lived ONLY in community." (emphasis mine) He notes that the interactions of Jesus usually played out in the company of others. This seems obvious, but I think Kendall is saying that we especially need to take note of this, given the climate of today's culture in the world AND in churches where it becomes about the private and individual.

6. A stronger connection MUST be made between a holy life and the mission of the church. Jesus entered a ministry already in progress "on behalf of people caught in the historical, social, cultural, and religious realities". That mission is ongoing, and we are called to service and ministry toward others, engaging the world and the powers.

7. This engagement must take the way of self-sacrificing love. In an ego- and ethnocentric world, we are called to proclaim a holiness that is love. "A dying to a self-centered life and filling with a divine love as the primary meaning of purifying from sin."

Altogether, I like this chapter. I think it would benefit many of us to read it, especially those in ministry serving the church. It's not simply about singing Jesus-songs, and getting as many people as possible to "ask Jesus in their hearts", or even "becoming entirely sanctified" so we can claim another spiritual milestone. We are not called to be the "Jesus-themed-country-club" we've so often become.

But it's not simply "trying hard" to embody these things listed, so that we can look and be proud of what we've done. It's relying on the Spirit of God to complete the work he has started, and join him where he is active...etc.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Holiness: Jesus and "Good News" (Part One)

Written by my Bishop and friend (I say friend not to name drop, because if he were listing people he'd invite to come watch the game with him, I'd probably not be on it. But to imply he's much more among those he leads than the title suggests.) David Kendall, of the Free Methodist Church.

The main topic of this chapter is pointing out that by focusing so much of our discussion on Holiness on the OT aspects of God, and the Pauline writings of the NT, etc...we've missed some stuff. The "good news" of the Gospels has a lot to do with Holiness, and it is woven all over the Kingdom of God and the mission of His followers.

He gives a quick background of Holiness in the OT. I was afraid for a repeat of chapter 2, but thankfully his was brief, and connected well to the person/faith of Jesus Christ. A quote that I think marks well what "Holiness" was in Jesus' day:

" holiness requires a Kingdom life, in the presence of the Holy One,
that is radically distinct from others outside God's Kingdom."

What Jesus did involved a re-defining of each of the above aspects. Kingdom life was no longer a political view of freedom from Roman rule. The presence of the Holy One was no longer about the temple and rituals. And living radically distinct was no longer about circumcision, clean foods, and Sabbath.

"(followers of Jesus) learned that the same love they had received could actually rule their lives."

I really enjoyed his repetition of the phrase "good news" all over the place. The birth/life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Gospel, or "good news". This new covenant of God which inaugurates a Kingdom of Love, and offers to go all the way to our hearts is VERY good news. It transforms how we see (love) ourselves, how we see (love) others, how we see (love) God, and our very lives as we live from those transformations.

Finishing up the chapter with recommendations for the road ahead, will post those tomorrow. :)


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why I No Longer Believe.

When I was growing up, it was all a lot easier. You kinda just followed the adults that were in your life. They "created" the way things were. No reason to ask questions. No reason to rock the boat. Nothing to question.

It became a pattern. It was a part of life on such a daily basis that I never really thought much about it. Day in, day out, it was almost like breathing or eating. Something you just do, not something to think about or analyze.

Then in youth group age even, I became blindly optimistic. I actually DID think about it, and still it made sense. Made sense to the point where I became passionate about it. I got to the point where I thought I knew what I was talking about. I told other people how THEY should think. I told my perspective and my thoughts simply because I couldn't understand why anyone would ever think/believe differently. My youth pastor had given me a Wednesday night to speak to the group, and it was part of my entire message that night. Looking back, I'm sorry for those I neglected to love.

Then I went to college. It seemed to be a "free for all" there. Sure, you'd meet some people who would back up your beliefs, but over-all...who knew what anyone actually lived by. People in college just want you to know how cool they are without trying to be cool. How trendy or hip they are. There are some that would deny any belief in it just because belief of this type was thought to be "childish" or "unnecessary".

Then I graduated college...and entered the "adult" world. The world where it seemed to matter less and less on a regular basis. Once in a while it would still come up. I'm a youth pastor, so you can imagine it would come up sometimes. But overall, on the regular grocery shopping, mall walking, movie watching kinda days...nothing.

Then I became a father. I looked forward to sharing this with my family. To talk with my daughters as they continued to grow and develop an understanding of the world around them. But recently something changed. Something has happened. I have a 2 year old.

I no longer believe that toilet paper has to face towards you, coming up from closest to the wall. Because when you do this, 2 year olds can just swat the heck out of it, making the toilet paper spool completely onto the floor.

I guess it's okay to turn the roll around. Sigh.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Holiness: in the New Testament Perspective...

Written by Kenneth Waters, Sr., a professor of Biblical Studies from Azusa Pacific University. He talks about several interesting balances of the theme throughout the New Testament.

It's spoken of as being both applicable to the mind AND heart. Not only our intellect, but also how we "feel", or emotions and what-not. I like that he emphasizes not only the absence of certain things, but reminds us that scriptures also talk about the PRESENCE of others. It's not simply about "purifying ourselves of certain (bad) things", but is also about love, generosity, kindness, humility, mercy, justice, service, etc. being present in our mind and heart.

Along the same lines, holiness is described as being both inward AND outward. It's not just about feeling/thinking these things...but also a life that displays the fruits of them. Seems obvious, but it's so easy to live without actualizing this understanding.

He also describes holiness as talked about both holistically and singularly. Meaning, it's this "overarching" thing that encompasses all other virtues (listed above). But at the same time, it is "complimentary to the others".

Holiness is discussed in the NT as both corporate AND individual. The corporate level, which we sometimes glaze over or use as a "feel good bonding time" so that everyone will hold hands or whatever....is actually quite a radical concept. The fact that scriptures extend this "holiness" to being descriptive of all of Israel because of their relationship with the believers in Christ among them.

He talks a bit about Holiness as being a process (Phil 1:6), a goal (1 John 3:3), and a possession (though I might say "gift", see previous aspects of this post) at the same time.

Then he goes on a 6 page discussion of Holiness in the Old Testament that makes me wonder if he knew the entire chapter before his would be "Holiness in the Old Testament". But to his credit, he points out the connections between the OT and NT, although he could've spent less time on it.

I really enjoyed his section on Christ being the "herald and hallmark of all holiness". He connects Christ with being the "in-breaking of the Kingdom of God" (Matt 1:23, Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34), and then moves on to what it means for all of humanity. Finally, he closes with a tribute section to John Wesley. Seems a bit forced, like he wanted to make sure anyone who loved Wesley would applaud his whole chapter. But still, as the book is mostly written/read by Wesley supporters, it makes sense.

He drops a bunch of phrases Wesley used to describe holiness. The one listed here that caught my life at this point is "salvation continued". Although I would've liked to hear more about holiness as being a pursuit/living out of Christ, who is the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. But I'm sure that's coming later in the book. Altogether a really good chapter on biblical holiness, both OT and NT.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

27, and counting.


Yup, today is my birthday. One year ago I was celebrating my victory on Wheel of Fortune. The excitement has died down a bit, though I still get a "congrats" from someone I haven't seen in a long time. Especially since they re-aired the episode last weekend, and many people who knew me seemed to have missed it a year ago (or that it happened a year ago).

5 Years ago I had just begun my first full-time youth pastor job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was an incredible rush....met some phenomenal people...learned a TON....and grew a lot. God blessed our time there, just as He has blessed the transitions in between.

10 Years ago I was turning 17, just beginning my senior year of high school. It was a great year. Algebra 2 was my only real class, the rest were choirs, dramas, independent reading, etc. My little brother Darin was a freshman, and I'd like to think I was decent to him for the most part. I was jerkish at times, but had matured a least a little by then. Plus, being nice to my freshman brother in high school kinda played well with the females (like caring for a puppy). So I was down with that.

20 years ago I was 7. No idea what happened that year. I was in 2nd grade? I prided myself on not "getting my name on the board" that entire year, even when the teacher mistook me for my older brother, and thought it had happened once. Mrs. Strawkowski, or something like that. Fun year, and I think I was Bugs Bunny for Halloween.

Thanks to everyone who has played a part in each of my 27 years. And to those who will be involved in the next 27.....look out. :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

personal update...

Figured I would throw an update for anyone who reads this and knows I have daughters...:)

They love hangin' out together...

Addie still discovers new joys every day, like jumping in puddles...
Sophie is LIVING discovery every moment of her life.
There are definitely difficulties. Early mornings after a long day previously. Diapers that never stay clean. Nap schedules that never match up. Half hour car rides that seem to take hours. A wife that works all day, but doesn't get a paycheck. (she rocks, by the way) :)

I wouldn't trade it for all the Cheez-its in the world.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

what I learned from "Joe"

Towering at like 10 feet, Joe was the guy from the local company that I called to rescue me from our ant situation. He knew EVERYTHING. It was awesome. Although he didn't seem to hear what I was saying some of the time, at least he nodded like he understood. Made a couple funny situations, like this one:

(as he's spraying toxic poison all over our living room)

Me: So Joe, this stuff is safe to spray around where kids are right? I mean, like, should they be kept away from it? (stupid way to combine questions, I admit)

Joe: Mm-hmmm.

Me: (confused and silent)

Anyways, I was wrong. They weren't carpenter ants. Joe laughed when I told him that. Remember I said we had termites before we ever lived here? Well, they sprayed, etc...and killed those things. But there were still termite tunnels in a lot of the wood outdoors surrounding our porch. Pavement ants crawled up in there, and decided to live in the vacant rooms. They do some damage too, tunneling through wood just like carpenter ants would.

So what's the verdict? Joe says not to worry. Pointed out a couple pieces of wood to "replace" (which he talked about as if it's as easy as pouring a bowl of Life for breakfast....I gotta work on my manly abilities apparently), said to make sure they're sealed good after they're replaced. But he wasn't worried. Said things are fine.

Whew.

Thanks Joe. :)

ps. I fulfilled my short-term dream last week, of climbing to the top of the climbing structure in the middle of the Decatur Children's Museum. We took Addie last Thursday, and since school is in session now...no 100 daycare kids to compete with...hehe. I know....you're jealous. Addie was too scared to come with me....but my wife gave me permission to go ahead and fulfill my dream. I love them. :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

the ants go marching one by one.....(no hurrah)

When we bought our house back in November of 2005, they found traces of termites. Nothing alive, apparently, but some trails. So they treated it for termites, and we have a $60 a year plan to keep them away.

Since then, we've seen a few bugs here and there. We've seen ants. But didn't think much of them. Figured, as long as most food is cleaned up, no problems right? Carpenter ants don't EAT wood, after all...they just tunnel through it.

But them suckers is determined lil' things.

Seriously, in a home with 2 daughters, and wood floors...well, it's a given that crumbs are gonna end up in some of your nooks and crannies. But yesterday was a sign that something more than a can of Wal-mart ant killer was needed. A piece of candy lay underneath a chair on the side of the room furthest from the front door. I'd say about 4 or 5 hours passed.

When we finally noticed it...it was a pile of moving black dots....with a trail of active ants leading all the way to the front door. They'd found a hole behind the door frame through which to carry their spoils. Who knows...might even be a whole nest in there. This picture is about what the entryway to our front door looks like:
Gonna have to get a new board to walk on...or something. But hopefully these professional bug killers know what they're doing. (don't worry posting your grandma's advice on how to kill ants in your house.....I have the interweb too...but thanks. :) )

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Преступление и наказание

I'm about 90 pages away from finishing "Crime and Punishment" for the first time. I gotta say, I've definitely enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Both as thought-provoking, and as a story to engage. It's not like an action-paced, can't put it down type thriller. I definitely can't read it after 10pm. And it's hard to read a few pages at a time. The best times I had with the book are when I devoted an hour or two at a time to enter its' pages.

You can find stuff all over the internet analyzing the contents of the book. The symbolism (or possible symbolism) runs deep, throughout every section of the book, whether intended or not. Themes of guilt, spirituality, mercy, grace, freedom, forgiveness, piety, "carrying a cross", reason, etc. All you gotta do is check the stuff on Wikipedia to know it's a pretty full book.

Raskolnikov has committed murder. Most of the book is told through his mind/life, describing the guilt in such ways that you almost sweat with/for the man. But one conversation about a paper he wrote before any of this happened stood out for me. About how a man might know if he's destined for something great. Destined to bring/say something "new" into the world. He continually uses Napoleon as an illustration of such a man, saying whatever was necessary for Napoleon to become what he did, would've been justifiable.

If something "new" is to be brought, then what is old must die/pass on/be transformed. And whatever might stand in the way of that is to be dealt with as mere stepping stones, necessarily crossed towards greatness.

Perhaps this is why murder has taken place? :) Most likely not, as "mere stepping stones" shouldn't have the power to cause this much guilt in someone destined for greatness.

And then you discover Dostoevsky's intentions for this to be a type of illustration to the public.

Committing evil is not justified -
even when it's done for the cause of greater good.

Probably still a pretty appropriate message for an age where politicians and business moguls alike are promising some sort of "secret knowledge" or "path" to a more Utopian society, if we are willing to sacrifice a certain type of life. (they usually don't talk about what is sacrificed)

There are "new" things yet to come,
but they involve a different approach to death. (Romans 8:13).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"one more night" syndrome...

Recently, we switched Addie from a crib to a "big girl bed" (a toddler bed). It's lower to the ground, and she can get in and out as she pleases. So far she has been pretty good about staying in bed until mommy and daddy ask her to get out. But at times she's even gone further than that...

She seems to be comforted by the bars, snuggling up against them like she used to in her crib days.In the book of Exodus, we see Moses offer Pharaoh a chance to get rid of the plague of frogs. Pharaoh responds, "come back tomorrow and do it". Which begs an obvious question: If the plague was so terrible (and it seems to have been), why spend an extra night sleeping with the frogs?

We've been offered freedom. Freedom to exist, live, relate, receive, and build towards the Kingdom of God. To make choices and decisions based not on what the world would think, our friends or family or social structures at school or work. Not to make choices selfishly based on what "we want, or think" (which can change easily based on emotions/situations) . But actually based on how the Kingdom of God (the Reign and Rule of God) is revealed to exist, both now and coming.

We are given this freedom. The freedom to know we've been created for a purpose. The freedom to not have to "conquer" the situations of our life in order to prove the "power" of that freedom. But at the same time, the freedom to stand in the name of God in the midst of injustice, and work towards justice.

But at the same time, we press our faces comfortably against the railings we know so well. The railings of materialism. Of unforgiveness. The railings of jealousy, of pride, of anger. We spend another night captive, maybe out of fear, and maybe out of laziness, or maybe because last time we slept without the railing we fell out of bed and got bruised.

But it still remains. We have been made free. Life to it's fullest, the nature of God, and the Kingdom He is revealing...all drawing us nearer...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Holiness: in the Old Testament

A great background on holiness by Jon Huntzinger, professor of Biblical studies at The King's College and Seminary.

Although I'm not sure why he needed to use the word "ubiquitous" in the beginning. Did they really not want this book to be read by the church world-wide? I hope this doesn't end up being a book where really intelligent people try and prove how intelligent they are.

Thankfully, his need to prove his intellect is not ubiquitous in his chapter. Although it is still full of great references/thoughts on holiness "in the beginning". That creation is "good", and is representative of God's nature. That God created a garden (gan) where man (created in God's good image, to reveal God's holy nature) could live, worship, and enjoy his divine provision...a priest of a worker and keeper of the Garden.

The rest of the Old Testament tells of the journey of God's people as they move away from that Holiness, and "of the holy God who is active in bringing humanity back to an original place of worship of him."

He brings out the OT definition of holiness variously as "separation, wholeness, and otherness." Seeing it through the lens of divine goodness, he states:

"holiness is that state or relationship of goodness
that is in equipoise (another word to make me feel stupid -
it means "equilibrium, or counterbalance) with the purpose of God and
is reflective of his presence."

To realize that, by the giving of the laws, and by acting upon the lives of Israel to reach the world, God was thrusting his own holiness (which we had walked away from) back into humanity. He was drawing his creation back to himself...which points really well to the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was being pointed to in the OT.

When they created a temple (a space that was "more" holy) they were echoing God placing a "garden" in the midst of his creation. When they celebrated the Sabbath (time that was "more" holy) they were echoing the difference between when Adam named animals (Gen. 2:19-20), and enjoyed God's personal presence (3:7).

And then...as Jesus comes later on...we see the fulfilling and echoing of all of these things in his life, and his teaching. The Lord's prayer, for one, says "Holy is your name." It is the very nature of the God we serve...the God who is here with us, transforming our lives even now...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

rap vs. hip-hop

An article I read recently, that says the "rap" (although I would distinguish "glam rap" from "hip-hop" more than they did) movement that was popular a few years back has died. A few quotes stand out:

"In 2005, four of the top ten selling albums were (rap) projects (50 Cent, Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas, The Game). Just a year later, only two rap albums appeared in Billboard’s 40 highest selling albums of 2006. In 2007, hip-hop album sales dropped by 33% again, even though heavy hitters like Jay-Z, Nas, Didddy, Ludacris, and Snoop Dog all released albums."

"
While individual hip-hop songs and ringtones may sell well with the tween demographic, it’s pretty clear that twentysomethings in particular have lost interest in the genre."

"
But it’s worth noting that hip hop, alongside jazz, is a completely original American creation. As an agent of change, it’s probably opened the eyes of more white kids to the struggles of the urban poor than any single book, magazine article, or classroom lecture could ever hope to achieve. If you were born any time after 1980, then hip-hop has been a part of your culture, of your life experience, even if you’ve never considered yourself a “fan.” "

It doesn't take much more than looking around to realize that "glam rap" artists have taken a potentially powerful art form and degraded it to being about partying, women, booze, and other substances. Completely mindless and devoid of anything that contributes to humanity.

Thankfully, true Hip-Hop still exists. Christian, non-Christian, whatever. There are artists who truly recognize it as an art, and something that can move humanity in a good direction. I leave you with some examples of those....

Mars Ill - "More"

Mr. J. Medeiros (of The Procussions) - "Constance"

Gnarls Barkley - "Going On"

Blackalicious - "Deception"

Red Cloud/Pigeon John - "Tapatio"

Anyways, you get the picture. There's plenty of stuff out there that's good/meaningful/fun without sacrificing the things that matter. Plenty more where all these came from. The nice thing is, they usually collaborate, so when you find one, you find many. :) Enjoy...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

flip flops - only the beginning?

For most Sunday mornings lately, given appropriate (dry) weather, I've been wearing my flip flops. I think I've finally been at this church long enough where they know a few things:

1. I do know how to wear close-toed shoes when necessary.
(funerals and weddings)
2. I'm not "rebelling" against anything or anyone,
or trying to make "a statement".
3. I just really really like flip flops, and think they're comfortable.
4. If I knew anyone was actually offended, I would totally shove
my feet into a leather prison for a few hours each week.

God's wants worshipers who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. The the truth is...flip flops help me relax, and let go of tension. They let me "breathe" well. And I believe worship is a LOT about breathing well. That's why, whether I'm going with the "khaki and untucked shirt" look, or "suit and tie"....I'll usually wear flops. (although brown with one, black with the other...of course)

But I just saw an article that makes me wonder...how far would I take my own thoughts on this?

Shorts with a suit jacket??? Very tempting.

Now the guy on the right is clearly doing something wrong...it doesn't work for him. The other two can almost pull it off, but they're lacking the correct foot apparel. But it still makes me wonder if I could make this work...or if I'd even try it? Clearly, I'd have to sneak out of the house before my wife caught me and fixed the fashion faux pas. I think, on a REALLY hot muggy summer day...if I was wearing a suit jacket...I might give it a shot.

But let's let the Europeans try it out first.

(I do realize the irony of posting this only a day after saying we worry too much about what we look like in church sometimes. Eat the irony up.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

incredible savings?

During lunch yesterday, I saw a commercial. It started out with a man who appeared to be drowning in a swimming pool, shouting for someone to rescue him. It then panned out to show a high diving board, with a woman preparing for a dive. The amount of time that passed between her preparation, getting into position, dramatic dive filled with flips and spins, and finally landing without much splash to rescue him....was tense.

I thought, "wow, that's a creative idea to get people
off their butts and help each other."

Nope. It was a freakin' Comcast commercial.
It said, "Incredible Savings. Everyday.", etc...

Still, I think it was a creative illustration.
Both for their ad, and to make us think...if we're willing.

I don't want to "nail jello to a wall" and try to compare all aspects of the image to what it could be in our lives. But I very much think that many times we are spending a lot more time making sure our suits are nice and snug, our swim caps are tightly fitted, we've stretched appropriately, we've figured out exactly how many spins/flips we can do on the way, and exactly how we look to the "judges"....while others are struggling to even swim.

We each have opportunities on a regular basis, to reveal God's love to those around us. To speak True Hope. To act with mercy. To work towards justice. To offer unmerited forgiveness, expecting nothing in return. To live out humility. To proclaim the Kingdom of God that is already transforming lives all around us.

Maybe sometimes we need to just get in the stinkin' pool already...

Before we're forced to -

You should take a few minutes, and read this blog about a visit our FM Bishop just made to a fellow Bishop imprisoned in Rwanda.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

to quote Seinfeld....."I'm Out!"

although in this case: food.

So you may remember just a couple days ago, I posted my ambitions to make it until September 16th on only a liquid diet. Out of solidarity with my brother-in-law, and kinda like a "dare" type situation....and I was totally gonna do it too.

I lasted through Maid-Rites. Lasted through offers of free lunch. Lasted through an ultimate frozen pizza with garlic bread crust being cooked in my very own house. Lasted through our giant church picnic yesterday with all sorts of amazing dishes/desserts.

On the way home from the picnic, I passed a church sign that read, "The more we see a temptation, the more attractive it becomes." My stomach agreed.

That afternoon, Sarah's family called to see if she wanted to come over for some pizza they were ordering for dinner. She went, leaving me with the girls so I wouldn't have to see the pizza up close. I sat down to feed Sophie and Addie. I was spooning rice cereal into Sophie's mouth, as Addie sat next to us, munching on her Cheez-It crackers. (one of my vice's)

Out of nowhere, my daughter grabs 3 crackers, and holds them out to me, saying:
"Daddy want some?"

Something inside me broke.

We knocked out at least half the box of cheez-its, and it was amazing. Addie was giddy cause she was a 2 year old eating cheez-its...I was giddy because I hadn't eaten in almost 5 days. Sophie was giddy cause she just got a poop out. It was definitely a funny scene.

So I fell. I lasted 5 of the indended 14 days. I lost 4 or 5 pounds. But at least I've experienced a small part of the hunger he's going through. Funny thing is, most days I wasn't crazy hungry. Just "I want to chew and swallow something with more taste/texture" hungry.

Last night I went out and bought the most expensive frozen pizza I could find at Kroger, and ate over half of it. Washed it down with some green tea, and a S'Mores Poptart. Mmmmmm...food.

Holiness: In the 21st Century...

If you see the first word "Holiness" in the title over the next while, you'll know it's my thoughts on a section of the book "Holiness Manifesto" I've finally received.

With the title containing the word "manifesto", it includes a bit of confusion for me as to the purpose of the book itself. This introduction does a great job at motivating the reader to continue, and to be excited for the purposes of this book.

I like what he says about the 20th century evangelical movement to "take over and dominate culture" probably being "counterproductive to Kingdom purposes. This Holiness movement was and is never about creating a Christian subculture, or even in domination of what is considered popular...politically OR socially.

Basically, the purpose of this collaboration of 10 denominations, seems to be connected to this: "a commitment to a personal transformation of life that has social and public impact around Kingdom principles consistent with the nature of God.....a discussion regarding the identity and mission of the church for the next generation and beyond."

The section on context basically gives a context (past and present) for biblical and radical holiness. It it summarized/pinnacled in the final sentence, a statement made by Howard Snyder in his book from 1980:

"Perhaps Western culture is nearing a point where the Christian faith can be
successfully reintroduced. Maybe the collapse of the present order will lead
to a new outbreak of revolutionary (holiness-oriented) Christianity."

The actual Manifesto section can be found in its entirety here. Fresh Eyes on Holiness section can be found in it's entirety here. They are the basic "call" reaching out across social/economic/denominational divides and saying "lets think about this, and think about it actively".

PRAXIS (actually living things out as opposed to just theories) seems to be a very important aspect of the thoughts going on here...as opposed to just a bunch of ties nodding heads to each other at an expensive hotel conference center. (which was the image I got at first, probably through the pictures of lots of men in ties located at a hotel conference center posted on their website.) I'm looking forward to reading more of what those involved have written here. :)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

new monasticism...


Over the past years, my wife and I have had the privilege of being a part of a small group. Surprisingly, this hasn't (for me at least, hopefully for the others too) become something we dread, or another time consuming commitment, or "church" thing that we do because we feel like we should participate in church stuff. In fact, the level of community that I've experienced in this group has been refreshing on a deep level.

I care about what's going on in their lives. I find myself praying for them. I look forward to seeing them at events, etc. I actually feel like we've developed relationships that are echoes of what God intended back when he said "You, together, are the body of Christ"...etc. I look forward to where this group goes together/the work we do, and where we each find ourselves down the road.

In this group, and in a couple other friendships, my wife/life/God have taught me how to grow.....I've learned, and continue to learn what it means to actually "build a relationship" with another human being. I'm thankful for her pushing me beyond the type of person who simply likes to shake hands, make connections, and share a ride with others. (check my Facebook friends population....I'm actually more ashamed than proud...the numbers speak to the depth of many of those relationships.)

So much so, that I really wish we could all buy a giant house or a few houses in a neighborhood together, and move in together as a small group...or somethin' crazy like that. To experience intentional community with these friends, supporting from and drawing from each other as each is able...etc. Not sure how it'd all work out....and it's probably more like a 5th grader level desire to "have all my friends live near me" or what not. Although I can be honest and say, I don't wanna live near them just because I like playing together: They know I'm not a big AOE fan.

Which seems to be the issue some other "New Monasticism" communities are dealing with. In reading this article, which came in response to this article (feel free to read both/either/neither). How intentional communities somehow end up being of one "culture" or color, or whatever.

Even with the issues that have been brought up in the article above, I think there are VERY important things about living as communities that the new monasticism movement brings up. I think we can all agree that technology, cities, development, and population, etc. have all led to a very independant, individual-driven, selfish lifestyle; and sometimes even a theology to go with it.

God has called us, and even created us...for life with each other. When we model that in our own lives, across any kind of social/economic/racial/political barrier....we are speaking the good news of the Kingdom of God. Maybe that needs to look like something large and radical. Maybe it's a radical that transforms in the small things...

In any case....I"m pretty sure....it needs to be radical.

And not "wow, new shirt?" radical, but

"I'm not sure I want to sit by you on the bus anymore" radical.
(to use the 5th grader mentality of someone who would rather sit in the same ole' pew)

Friday, September 05, 2008

liquidation...

There have been a couple times in my life that my diet has been forced to consist of mostly liquids.

The first, when I had a nissan-fundleplycation back in High School. I grew up with Acid Reflux (heartburn), and it was burning a hole through my esophagus, so they went in, and tightened the top of my stomach to make it a "one way" valve. So yah, I can't burp much, and can't puke at all (which is worse than it sounds)....but I don't ever have heartburn, which rocks.

After the surgery, I couldn't even drink stuff for a while. Just a pink sponge dabbed on my tongue whenever my mouth got dry. But after that I could only eat Jello, and pudding and what-not for a couple weeks at least. I lost like 30 pounds that I would keep off until college. :)

The second, was last year. I had my tonsils removed, which was incidentally the worst pain I've ever experienced. The result of such a sore throat, kept me on water for a LONG time. A couple weeks went by, adding small things like pudding and soft cheese, etc. I lost like 20 pounds, that I've definitely gained back since then.

So why bring this up? My brother-in-law Ben is going under the knife later this month for a surgery that requires him to do a liquid diet until the 16th. Prompted both by the desire to be in prayer for him, and also to be the "always take a dare" kinda guy that I am....I committed to endure the liquid diet together.

So starting this past Tuesday night, I stopped eating solid foods. It's now friday, and I'm hungry as all get out. The previous two occasions for this diet, I was in such pain, I didn't care to eat much anyways. This is different. I see food. I smell food. I want food. :)

So we'll see what happens. At the starting point, I weighed in at 197 lbs. (huge, I know...but it's ALL muscle...hehe). Until the 16th, I'll be drinking instant breakfasts, eating fat-free pudding, and drinking bouillion.

It'll be tough on the Mrs. too, cause she's a big fan of making full meals lately, gettin' all creative with her cooking with some of her room-mates from college. But she'll love being able to make all sorts of vegetables with no complaints...hehe.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

2 Luke 1:1-26

(skip to the * and start reading there, if you want this to make more sense)
Been reading through some commentaries lately, on the book of Luke (this year's quizzing materials). I'll be digging more through Luke throughout the school year, as we are also taking a look at it in our youth Sunday School class.

Because it had been on my desk for so long, I accidentally started reading a commentary on the book of Acts, though.

Reading through the beginning of Acts, with the understanding that it's kinda like the second book of Luke, has been pretty cool. To realize that, by saying what he does about Jesus in the beginning, he's setting this book up as "the continued works of Jesus Christ".

* We've probably heard before, that the New Testament is the story of the people of God entering into the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is inaugurated at Christs' birth/life/death/resurrection, and then we see how it continues to take shape and transform the world throughout the rest of the story. From this perspective, we can also understand that as a time-line, we are still caught up in the midst of the New Testament. Most of the time when you hear someone say this, they refer to us being somewhere in the midst of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. I like that too.

But to think of us being still invited to, and caught up in, the work of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the book of Acts, is something a bit new to me. The fact that the "end" of the book is not quite an "ending"...but a "to be continued" in the lives of those who come after Paul....is pretty stinkin' exciting.

I've heard before, and I've even said before, "check out the book of Acts, see how they lived as the beginning of the body of Christ". To imply that we can be really inspired and motivated by how life after Christ was resurrected began to take shape in the communities that followed. I think that's a good implication to make.

But even more exciting is the fact that not only can we simply be "inspired or encouraged" by the quaint stories found in 2 Luke, but can actually find ourselves invited to the same Holy Spirit-empowered experience of Jesus continuing the work He began previously.....whew.

That's better than Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Indescribable (part 2)

We sometimes call "giving our entire lives", and being "transformed by the Spirit" Holiness. And "Holiness" becomes the goal of our individual and corporate lives. The "end", that we're all working towards. Comparing it to Giglio, Holiness has become in a spiritual sense, the "awesome universe" type thing. We say "see, God is so holy, and becoming involved in His Holiness, allows you to handle all that life throws at you."

But why? "Cause God said 'be holy', and that's good enough for me."
Okay. But for what purpose has God said it?

If there's ever been a time for us to be preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God...it's now. Holiness is NOT the "end result" of a life striving for God. Holiness is not even the main goal. It's much more important than that.

We pursue holiness, we pursue a life-transforming, actual being-changing, Spirit-moving-in-and-through kinda thing.....not so we can step back and say "look, that's what Holiness is", or even "hurray, I've done it!". We are called to do these things, to live and build towards the now and coming Kingdom of God. To proclaim the reign and rule of God into the world today.

So yes, God IS big. Big enough to handle my life. Sure.
He's God...so I'd hope so.

But as Louie illustrated, my life is pretty small in the grand scheme of things. So I think it's even more incredible that this small planet, and these tiny people are in many ways being used to usher in the very Kingdom of God! To proclaim the reign and rule of God to all of creation (including the entire known universe...although not much vocal proclaiming is needed outside our atmosphere that we know of)! In that sense, the picture that's much larger than what it offers my life...but at the same time, what I can be a part of...THAT is indescribable.

That's a "why" I can very much get behind. The "why" of the universe being so stinkin' incredible. The "why" of becoming involved in the pursuit of holiness. It's like the "42" of reality.

And I think we need to teach/preach/live it more often that is done.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

indescribable...(part one)

Recently watched Louie Giglio's worship DVD message entitled "Indescribable" again. Can't remember the first time I watched it, or much about it...so let's just say it was my first time.

He said a lot of facts about how huge the universe is. Awesome. Indescribable. Yup. Illustrations that hardly even grasp at it. Can't remember exactly the one he used, but something to the effect of, "the earth in the known universe is like the size of a pin-prick in the USA" or something crazy like that.

And so, the rationale follows that the God who created all of these things by merely "speaking them into existence" must be "larger" than all of these things, right? Awesome. Indescribable.

And all that he was saying continued to beg the question....so? Or at least....so what are you intensely trying to say, Louie? (he was sweating, eyes bulging, like a scary gym instructor who wants you to lose 20 pounds before you leave today) So what was the all-encompassing point he was making with all of these incredible facts and pictures?

Something like, "See....God is big enough to handle the things in your life." I think I liked all the facts/pictures/etc...without him adding this part. God is infinitely awesome...and it's great, and worship-inducing to realize that.

Now, I can understand that there are times in our lives where we definitely need to hear this "God is bigger" message. We need to know/believe that there is something bigger out there than the stuff we go through. And we're just a hint selfish enough to hope this "bigger thing" is on "our" side.

But lately, I've been reminded by people/things/scripture of how much we unfortunately stop at this point. It makes a great sales pitch, even from the perspective of giving instead of getting. I listen and believe God can handle my life, so I "give it to him". Then I try harder and harder to make sure I'm "giving it to him", and that I'm telling people how great it is that God "has my life"...etc.

Monday, September 01, 2008

and the award goes to...

Several.

Thanks to all who contributed to the ability to go "Man-Camping" last night. To the Redden's, who let us use their random property halfway to Clinton. To Jason, for the sleeping bag that actually zipped. To Noah, for the ride to the camping site, and for a few hours of entertaining fire-time. To the wives who couponed/made cards through the night, while their husbands "manned" it up. And to my campin' comrades....Jake and Jonah, for sharing the entire experience.

No tent. No utensils. No "site" pre-made. Just hiked into the woods...down Central Illinois' 1st big hill, and then immediately hiking up Central Illinois' 2nd hill. At the top...the perfect place.

An evening of chillin' by the fire, talking about life, books, music; and playing a little music ourselves. Finally we decided it was time to douse the fire...man-style of course.

The evening continued through mosquito's singin' in our ears. An owl reminded us of its' existence proudly at 2am....scaring me more than a little. Just startled though....I'm a man.

Woke up with the sun around 6-ish, and watched/listened as a random very large deer came close to watch us. He sneezed a few times, blew his nose, and walked away.

Restarted the fire (I love doing the "morning after" fire....building the wood.....stoking the coals.....and fueling with just enough oxygen by blowing on it to ignite what's been built....it's like Christmas.) and we made some coffee in Jake's nifty Nalgene contraption (like a camping french-press really).

Came home and untied my shoes for the first time since the day before. Reeking of smoke and sweat (and a lil' dirty). Learned what a spiny spider was finally now that I'm home, and that they're not dangerous. But they look stinkin' cool.

No pictures to post...cause....well....it was man-camping.
Who would think to bring a camera?
You can imagine how stinkin' cool it all was.

And be jealous...