Monday, August 30, 2010

thinking and image bearing

I've already said that no two books have ever gone together so well than NT Wright's “After You Believe” and Nicholas Carr's “The Shallows”. Carr presents an eye-opening case for us to be more aware of the changes happening not only within our brain, but actually TO our brain due to the informational web era we live in; the fact that our grey matter is constantly in flux, being wired and rewired according to our practices and thoughts. Wright presents a call to a renewed vision of Christian “Virtue”, reminding us that being made a New Creation involves practices and thoughts that we must work at in order that they become second nature over time. That our lives here and now can be practicing the language of the Kingdom to the point where we citizens begin to transform the world around us even now, as we ourselves are transformed.

One example Wright brings up are the Beatitudes. Most of us have heard this section of Matthew chapter 5, where Jesus says “Blessed are those...”, etc. Some translations actually translate the word “happy are those...”, which Wright quickly points out is fruit of a misunderstanding of what it means to follow Christ. As Wright states:

“one of the things that marks Jesus out over against Aristotle in terms of the source and driving energy of the “virtues” - is that this includes “happiness,” but it includes it as the result of something else – namely, the loving action of the creator God.”

He goes on to talk about the fact that these beatitudes are neither an exercise in legalism (a checklist of things to do if you're following Christ well), nor are the verses that follow (avoiding not just murder, but hatred, not just adultery but lust, etc.) a cry for “really meaning it, not just going through motions.”

In both cases, we hear a calling toward what Wright labels “eschatological authenticity”. That the language and natures of Kingdom living are opened up for us in Jesus Christ to participate in now. It will be a struggle, and we'll have to pray for grace and strength, but it “is at least now within reach.”

Wright point out: “You can't collapse the whole question of “how to behave” into the command “It must come naturally, otherwise it isn't authentic.” Jesus puts it the other way around: he says, in effect, “Follow me, and authenticity will begin to happen.”

When God created human in the garden, we believe He created in His own image. We are created to be the bearers of God's image into all creation. To reflect God's glory into the world. In every area of our life. In every season. In every time of day. As a husband, a father, a youth pastor, a friend, a teacher, a student, a brother, a son, etc. To carry the genuine humanity God is calling us to become into each area, and to live accordingly.

To carry faith into situations where others have let go long ago. To bring a solid hope to a world that has experienced far too many broken promises. And to Love in worlds where hurt, brokenness, and suffering have taken place for so long, genuine love is like an ancient myth.

As we do this in the name of Jesus, we bear the image of God in a world that was created for us to do so...and all things are becoming New...

Saturday, August 28, 2010


The question when finishing a book like “The Shallows”, that I think to myself as much as I'm asked by friends who know I've read it is, “So, will you be using the internet less from now on?” I'll admit, there are sections of the book where I imagined unplugging. Deleting my facebook, ending my blog, and canceling my chat accounts...all seemed tempting at different moments.

Just as the author, toward the end of the book, confesses to attempting. He admits to being a solitary type man, and being self-employed, has abilities to disconnect many of us couldn't handle. Then, toward the end of the same chapter, he admits that when finishing this book was near complete, he “plugged in” once again. Even brags on his new Wi-Fi Blu-ray player that streams NetFlix and YouTube, etc.

I don't think I'll go into a sort of legalistic re-appraisal of my online connections. But I do think I will be more purposeful in my intellectual and creative development. I'm better familiarized with the benefits of decreasing how much of myself I rely on the “web” for, and how much of my day is unplugged. I see tremendous value in carving out specific time for words on printed pages, and want to work on the habit of using the “off” switch for my laptop's wireless capabilities.

God has given us an amazing amount of self to create and discover, and an identity that He continues to form in our hearts, minds, and lives. There are large amounts of energy and enthusiasm to share the benefits of technology with the generations who were born before much of it existed. Teaching the elderly, and even the middle-aged how to properly navigate the world-wide web, and all of it's various facets.

But an area we need to remember, and foster, is to share that bridge in both directions. The abilities our parents and grandparents have to focus on a single concept or idea. The imaginations bolstered and living organic memories of those who have developed them naturally, instead of clicking a search engine for the most relevant facts....should make us want to sit at their feet and listen. As we are raising tomorrow's generations, may we continue to require not only the ability to type well and navigate, but to sit still. To dream. To listen. To write. To memorize. To create. To discuss and wrestle with a single idea or challenge. To work their way through a densely-packed, beautifully written classic novel...immersed in its' pages that are completely void of any links or advertising to distract the mind.

Although....I'm okay if we stop teaching cursive. I still don't get it. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

be still....and learn.

In the late 1890's, a group of German psychologists were performing experiments to test the minds' ability to remember short term. First, they gave a list of nonsense words to a group of people to memorize. A day later, they tested the group, who had no problems recalling the list. Second, they gave the same list to a different group to memorize, but this time gave a 2nd list of words immediately after learning the first. The next day, this group was unable to remember the initial set of words.

But in a third group, they gave a first list to memorize. Then after a delay of two hours, were given the second list to study. As with the first group, these had little trouble recalling the initial set of nonsense words. What does this tell us?

As noted with research on boxers in the late 1800's, “a memory, even a strong one, remains unstable for a brief period after it's formed.”

If you're like me, you've immediately begun thinking about practical applications for something like this. Not the least of which – how to encourage families (including my own) to chew on the Word of God brought to the table each Sunday morning throughout the week? Or in schooling, how to make sure that when our children learn something, they can remember it the following day?

By slowing down the pace of life. By reducing the speed at which new activities come. After a lesson or message, paying attention to what comes next. Not jumping right into something that requires large amounts of thought. Of course we also know that reinforcing a topic through repetition, review, and discussion can all help in large ways also.

Which kinda makes the average school day seem less effective, as students move from attaching their brains to one hose of information to the next, with very little time in between to solidify the memory of that knowledge. It seems like it would do parents some good to try and “bring to the surface” each class individually from that day, and after each discussion give some downtime to allow those memories to catch. If anything, to try and schedule the class your student struggles in either just before lunch, or at the end of the day. Although then perhaps you have to fight the anxious distractions of “I'm just about to leave.” syndrome.

As for the Word of God that comes to us New every morning? That upon receiving it, we would spend time, either alone in quiet, or around a table (with food? :) ) discussing and reviewing it together. Which points to meals together after church as being more than just a “nice Sabbath family tradition”, and more of a “vital Sabbath family practice” to encourage the long-term working of God's Word in our hearts and lives.

In either case, if we want something to be remembered...we stay OFF the internet for a while after it. The immediate requirements placed on our working memory while we use the web fights against our brains ability to consolidate long-term memories and development of schemas.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

the shallows of Google

Still processing through the book “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr. I recommend it for parents, teachers, youth pastors, pastors, professors, and anyone who may want to care for their own mind and the minds of others. It contains valuable insights into the human brain, and how it is being quickly rewired in ways that we would benefit from paying attention to.

Especially as a parent, I want to raise my daughters in such a way that they know things. Not just facts and figures, but actually know a subject, as opposed to simply knowing how to find what is known about it. One chapter in the book dives deep into the shallow and complex world of Google. Up until reading much of this, I'd assumed Google was simply another internet company, aiming to make money while doing whatever work it does toward new technology in the meantime.

As it turns out, there is far more going on in the Google empire. Carr gives many examples and quotes from Google's own top dogs, that boil down to this:

“In Google's view, information is a kind of commodity, a utilitarian resource that can, and should, be mined and processed with industrial efficiency. The more pieces of information we can “access” and the faster we can distill their gist, the more productive we can become as thinkers. Anything that stands in the way of the speedy collection, dissection, and transmission of data is a threat not only to Google's business but to the new utopia of cognitive efficiency it aims to construct on the Internet.”

“The last thing the company wants is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. Google is, quite literally, in the business of distraction.”

The god that Google has created out of “efficiency” leads to sacrifices. As they continue to grow, and achieve goals such as digitizing the texts of countless numbers of books, they encourage compartmentalizing cohesive thought, and deep meditation on single works becomes increasingly rare. Instead of carving out time to sit in quiet, and turning pages, I can merely click a button to get a snippet from a book – surrounded by advertising appropriate to my previous searches or the book I'm currently dissecting.

In the meantime, I recognize the giant amount of irony in quoting passages that point a finger at Google for dissecting books for selfish purposes. Added to that, the fact that most of my 20 or so readers every day find my page by clicking through Google. So smile at how silly I am.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Old School

Today I'm reachin' back to Addie when she was a bit younger.  Remember, "mimi" means "bye bye", and "oh" means "yes"....and, ya' go....

Friday, August 20, 2010

"the" mosque.

You don't have to look very far to find a topic that polarizes these days. Lately, it seems the one topic I've heard/seen people talk vehemently the issue of whether or not a mosque should be built so close to where the tragedy on September 11th, 2001 happened.  Just click the links in the previous sentence and you'll see the latest stories, filled with intense drama and effort in both directions.

For most of us, it doesn't quite matter what we think.  You don't have a national "vote" to make a decision like this.  So whatever side we fall on...we give our opinion, and walk forward into whatever comes next.  But in how we state our opinion, much can be said about who we are.

It seems to me like an issue that should not have been made such an issue.  So much time and energy has been wasted, relationships have been broken, and hate has been spewed, all between several religions who claim peace and love as highly important.

I can't speak to the Muslim side of things.  I've heard accusations of different reasons they may be motivated to build such a building on that location.  So let's say it's true.  Let's say somehow this Muslim community IS connected to the terrorist group that was behind the attacks on 9/11.  Let's say they wanna build a giant building with a sign that points at "Ground Zero" and says.."Boo Yah".  ( I don't believe this is the case at all.)

Even with that, I believe I can speak to the Christian approach.  I believe we are called in many places throughout scripture to live and respond prophetically to the events happening all around us.  (Luke 12:56)  Not that God wants us to make predictions and see if they come true, but that God desires those who follow Him to respond to current events from the perspective of  New Creation, and the Kingdom of God that is, and is to come.

What does that mean?  We understand that by reading the rest of Luke 12 leading up to those verses.  Jesus is talking about letting go of possessions.  About giving things away.  About not storing up treasures on earth.  Reminding us that where we invest our time, money, and energy; there our "center" will be.  That we should "consider the lilies", not just as inspirational decoration choices - but as a reminder not to allow worry over temporal things to have such a hold on our lives.

I've heard many loving followers of Jesus who oppose building on the basis of "showing love, respect, and honor to those who suffered in 9/11".  I can understand that desire, but I do not believe Christ calls us to reinforce anxiety over possessions out of Love for those who suffer.  I'll finish with a quote:

"..the new kingdom didn't look like they had thought it would...No violence, no hatred of enemies, no anxious protection of land and property against the pagan hordes...Rather, a glad and unworried trust in the creator God, whose kingdom is now at last starting to arrive, leading to a glad and generous heart toward other people, even those who are technically "enemies." " - NT Wright, "After You Believe"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

human "being" as creative activity...

In reading "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains", one of the many things he discusses is the extreme lack of boredom most of us face in our daily living.  Overstimulated, our brains yearn to be unplugged or at the very least to read something printed on paper that doesn't offer us the option to click a link to a connected article.

There was a quote of similar position in the most recent "Parents" magazine, that talked about the need children have for a bit more boredom in their life, as it leads to important developments in imagination and creativity.  Don't pile 20 toys in front of a kid, they'll only get overwhelmed.  Give them 1, and allow them to make the fun last by discovering all the new ways that thing can be played with.

It reminds me of a quote I discussed with some of our leaders recently, from the movie "Ratatouille".  The main rat was explaining to his brother why he loved humans, and he says something to the effect of, "Humans don't merely survive, they CREATE!!"  He wants to create also, and falls in love with creating new taste experiences, etc.  Great movie.

His line offers something for us to think about as people who have been created by God, and in the image of God.  It's something to chew on, and it's tune is noticeable behind all the random poems/spoken words/things I've been writing/recording lately.  In following Christ, and worshiping a creative God who has made us in His image...ironically we often find ourselves in the position of consumer.  It's easy to stay there.  God Himself is working to remedy that problem, and in the meantime invites us to experience that remedy.

To join in His creative work in making all things New.  To have our very existence be something that yields creative fruits.  Not simply "things to sell", or "things to check off a list".  Not even something that we can bring to a Christian "show-and-tell" every week.  But to make sure that our lives are involved in expressing who we are, who God is, and what beauty there is in the "Creation being made New"...thereby giving worship to God.

Which brings another element into the picture.  This isn't merely talking about grabbing a canvas and tossing paint onto it.  Though that may happen.  This isn't talking about crafting a poem with meter and rhyme.  Though it may be that.  Not about perfecting a new recipe, but it might taste like it.  Not talking about sculpting a masterpiece, though you might.  You get the picture.  There is something eternal and "from God" that I'm referring to here.  From/involving/to God, and all of a sudden this temporal creation takes on meaning beyond where moth and rust destroy.

One could even go so far as to agree with the rat....if we are merely consuming, we are not "being" human as God intends.  Which begs the question...what will you create this week?  Not just fitting "Peg A" into "Slot A", but something that actually fires the synapses involved in creative activity, connecting us to a God who created all things in the beginning, and is renewing all things even now.  Where will you join with God in bringing about a bit of Kingdom beauty/living? 


We got our new articles of clothing all washed and tags removed.
Got our required reading materials, and subscriptions to appropriate learning magazines renewed.
We got internet speeds approaching way to fast, and stacks of mousepads to burn.
And we haven't forgotten what we learned last year, at least what we really learned.

We'll zip the bags so tightly packed, our shoulders unforgiving.
And walk through halls filled with might-be friends, and we all pretend we're living.
The lives we want with t-shirts on that tell you where we bought 'em.
Except for those who snuck around in salvation army's where no one caught 'em.

"Nice shirt" you'll say, "thanks you too" they respond - a high five lifestyle as you run through another turnstyle.
Just another number on a locker that got cleaned out last May.
And will get cleaned out again.

But Christ offers much more for how you begin.

Shed the brands, the fads, the knowledge that allows you to be in the know.
No staying up late nights making sure you keep up with the informational and social flow.
No more status quo.

You're free.  Free to wear the air-brush t-shirt your grandma bought you in Orlando.
Free to sit by the kids you thought look interesting but didn't wanna risk being labeled cool-aphobe.
Free to go to bed when your body needs sleep, and free to eat what keeps you healthy.
Free to trip on your own left foot, free to sneeze, and free to not be stealthy.

Free to be human, in need of God, a God who is constantly forming.
His identity in your being again, and the creation around you is storming
Like thunder clouds before it hits, and buzz and anticipation, a positive mess
You're free to unplug from the stereotypical beginning of another year, living wireless.

Free from pretending to be flattered when he's says something unflattering.
Free from having to compliment her body when there's other things more mattering.
Free to treat the people around you like their made in the image of God
Free to live according to the Kingdom that's coming even though you'll be labeled odd.

And don't translate it into becoming cool in some sort of Christian hip sub-culture.
Jesus didn't come to start new trends, he came and submitted to torture.
He loved in a way that let go of what the world thought he should be.
And the best way to start school this year, is to accept that He's made you free...

Monday, August 16, 2010


I got to preach ( otherwise known as "I praught" ) this past Sunday on Luke 12:49-59. The topic was "Reconciliation". In these verses, Jesus actually says "Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!"

Check it out to hear how this is still very much a message on reconciliation...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

story hunger

I mentioned the topic of telling stories earlier this month, in response to a message on a youth trip to San Diego.  But lately it continues to be on my mind and heart, as my oldest (about to be 4 on Thursday! Yikes!) daughter continually asks me to tell her stories.  Thankfully I've not only got a collection of stories from years of hearing/telling the stories we have in scripture....God seems to have also given me a mind that can mine the mundane for new tales to spin.

Sure, there's the bedtime ritual, "daddy, tell me a story" that you never know if it's a plea for literary genius, or simply a scheme to squeeze a few more minutes of consciousness into that day.   But there are plenty of other times where she'll randomly say the familiar phrase "tell me a story".

I'm reminded of the concept of "Story" from Donald Miller's recent book, and how part of parenting is crafting and writing a compelling story for your family.  A story that connects them to something larger, and calls them into a character identity, so that they don't feel the unresolved need to search elsewhere.  Which even as a write, I realize could sound very close-minded to a non-believing reader....if I have any at all.

And I suppose I'm okay with that.  I will not beat my kids with a "must love Jesus" bat, but growing up in my home I pray they will find themselves characters in a story worth living within.  That their identity is both solid/firm, and beautifully/mysteriously open to their creative interaction with the God who gives it and His Universe.  To invite them to find their identity in Christ, and to parent in a way that reveals that invitation as foundational Truth, and Hope-bringing to every area of their life.

I work with teens and other people on a regular basis, who are still searching for that compelling story.  That character they've been called and created to be.  That incredible role they've been given.  It's sad when we see someone missing out, unaware of the transformational story breaking through even now.  The story of Love, Grace, Hope, and New Life that God is writing over a creation that began to write on its' own.

I hope that's even a little encouraging.  Because I'll confess, for me, these words come as a needed reminder.  To not tire of telling stories.  To hear my daughter's plea for one more story as a testimony to how God has wired my children....they are hungry for Story.  And I am a parent.  A story teller. 

I pray they hear the story God is telling through me, above all the 2 dimensional stories the world tries to throw at them...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

on Anne Rice, the non-Christian who follows Christ.

(Thanks to Steve for making me aware of this.)

Famous author, Anne Rice, is making waves recently for "Quitting the name of Christ..".  There are all sorts of responses someone or some group can have to an occurrence like this.  Anywhere from Catholics biting their thumbs at her (making horrible youtube videos explaining why she's "going to hell" now), to Vampire Novel fans yelling "Hooray!!!" and then awkwardly quieting when they realize she still loves Jesus, to being accused of all of this being a publicity stunt to sell books (as if she needed one?), to entire denominations creating a website that tries to sell her on joining them instead of the Catholic Church.

I'll take a brief moment to say, in case she's reading this (she's read my blog yah), Anne - I'm still looking forward to book 3 of your "Christ the Lord" series!  Any planned release?

I agree with Anne that sooooo much of what is done and said in "the name of Jesus" does not represent Jesus well at all.  It's easy to point fingers at the Catholic church....very easy, in fact.  Which is probably why I'm not Catholic.  Not that I'm a hater, either...there have been many wonderful things that have come from Christ-centered people within' the Catholic Church.  But her beef is not with the Catholic church alone, in statements she's made publicly the focus seems to be how "Anti-______" most Christians in general are.

It will likely cause some people to look more closely at the picket signs they're raising, and think more about how much they're living toward the Love of God that desires to make all things New.  Unfortunately, it will also cause more than a few who have become disenchanted with organized religion to get hazy stars in their eyes about the ambiguous notion of leaving the local church, and doing "something else" in it's place...still loving Jesus.

She's not the first person to hesitate at the label "Christian", because of how many horrible things are being done by those who also claim the title.  It was the same thing C.S. Lewis struggled with.  As noted in chapter 8 of his book "Mere Christianity", Pride and Self-Conceit is something that every human being deals with.  Humility in our walk with God, and with fellow humans...MUST be foundational in our love for them. 

To quote from Chapter 8, "Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good--above all, that we are better than someone else--I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil."

I'm as guilty as many others, in experiencing this kind of sin.  I confess it.  I ask God for His forgiveness and redemption from it.  But I am thankful for the label "Christian", not always because of the group of people it connects me to, as much as the Loving Savior it points to communion with.  A God who Loves and offers some pretty amazing Grace, but also infinitely compels us to be transformed and calls us to join in offering this New Life and freedom from sin to others.  May God be with Anne Rice as she continues to seek Him "in fear and trembling"...and may God use what is being discussed to bring repentance/revival...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Investing in FAIL

Luke 12:33 "Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."

This is not a call to sell everything you own. Nor is it a call to do good deeds, believing that whenever you hug a tree you get another or larger jewel in your crown or mansion in "heaven". This is a revelation of what it means that God's Kingdom is coming. To regularly practice detaching ourselves from temporary things, and attach ourselves to things of God's Kingdom.  To pay attention to where we are investing ourselves and our resources.

Also worthy of note, is that "heaven" wasn't a cloudy place with gold-paved streets somewhere "up there". What is being talked about here is the place where God's presence is. Where God reigns and rules. We are to center our lives (our "heart" a couple verses after this) and "invest" in the things of God.

How appropriate the literal translation of "ἀνέκλειπτος" is here. From "unfailing treasure", it literally means "without fail". In a culture where "fail" has become a noun, a quality that some thing of event can be "full of", we understand this word very well. Yet there are so many places in our lives where we are investing in things that fail.  God has something better in mind.

Relationships being built or maintained on foundations other than the eternal. Young men and women who desire the "romantic" always emotionally high version of Hollywood love. Myths of ambiguous things like "happiness" or "achieving success" as our main goals. Or to think that if we can get to a certain point financially, balance our social calendar just so, or get a house where we can hang out far enough will work out.  God has something better in mind.

Even as parents, who desire the best for our children, but so easily end up filling their toy chests and play areas with piles of things to distract them from the things in the other pile. You don't have to read too many parental magazines to realize the value/necessity of children to experience "boredom". Or the decisions by many parents to make "small sacrifices in presence" now, so that when they achieve financial freedom, or professional status, or whatever...they will be providing "enough" for their kids.  God has something better in mind.

In this chapter, Jesus is announcing a Kingdom that will not fail. That is eternal, foundational, and True. When we spend time centering our lives on Jesus Christ and the Kingdom He is ushering in, we will not be disappointed. When together with our spouses, children, and friends...we spend time on even the simplest involvement in Kingdom to the poor, loving the unloved, offering grace and forgiveness and is beyond worthwhile. It is time and resources well invested, not simply because of the return we fact, by this world's standards much of it may seem quite silly...but because of the eternal Truth we become involved in and transformed by. That is real, and lasting.  Anything else is full of FAIL. 

What will we invest in today?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

yo' homie.

You may have already heard, but we have decided to move toward Home Schooling our daughters. I know there are camps on both sides, and extremist camps representing both sides of the issue also. This is not a post meant to convince anyone one direction or another, and not a place for debate. Just me thinking out loud.

Last night, we attended an open house for a group of local homeschooler's. They offer resources, materials, support, and social gatherings, etc. It was filled with people from all ends of the homeschooling spectrum, and there were some good things being offered. One question we received, as we moved from booth to booth and they learned we were just beginning our journey into the world of schooling at home, was "What made you decide homeschooling was something you wanted to do?"

Tough question to answer while standing there in a few seconds. It's not the sort of thing we decided instantly, so how would I go about answering such a question politely enough to leave time for others to encounter this booth?

But the answer came quicker/easier than I would have expected.

"We became parents."

Granted, not everyone who is a parent makes this decision, so it's hardly a complete response. But for me, it carried a lot in the walls of it's vocabulary.

We. My wife and I together, our family. Sure, she has a degree in education, and knows a ridiculous amount of things when it comes to teaching. To the point where I'll probably have to remind myself that this involves me also. Not only "can involve me"...but must. One of the main reasons we are homeschooling...guaranteed parental involvement on a deep both parents. With our completely different personalities and strengths, Sarah and I will definitely have a variety of learning experiences with our children.

Became. It's not just a title given to someone who has a child. Becoming a parent transforms you in ways that are hard to explain. It involves effort, purpose, and you are never the same. There are things I understand now, that I could only imagine before...that are both incredibly hope-filling and excruciatingly heart-wrenching at the same time. I believe that we are still becoming in many ways, as our daughters grow and age one day at a time.

Parents. Not just "people who have children in their house and keep them alive." God has given us some pretty hefty instruction all throughout scripture (Deut. 6, etc.) on what it means to raise a family. The amazing gift we've been given to join God in bringing about His Kingdom even within the Anderson family more than a bit humbling. Since becoming parents ourselves, we've been surrounded with others who are further along in the parenting journey. We've seen it done well, both in regard to public schooling and home schooling. We feel that who we are, and are becoming, fit very well with the freedoms, challenges, and beauty that come from home-schooling.

Like I said earlier, we are "heading this direction". Who knows, maybe we'll get to 2nd grade and think "whoa. what are we doing?" But we like what we see each step in this direction, and are praying for God's guidance and Spirit as we move forward as a family...