Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Growing a beard

  • So, it's January, and it's been fairly cold around here, so I decided it would be a good time to grow a beard. As my good friend, John Weicher, was fond of pointing out, once I clean up the scruff on my neck and leave the rest, I'm definitely growing a beard. Anyway, I continue to be, what's the word?, not surprised, because it happens every time, but maybe flummoxed or bothered or annoyed or amused, yeah, that's it, amused by the reaction I get when I grow a beard. Some folks are nice and compliment the beard and tell me it looks good. But, there are those who seem so concerned by my change of appearance...so concerned that they need to ask me if I lost my razor or if I was feeling lazy, or, or, or, WHY IN THE HECK WOULD YOU GROW A BEARD? IT LOOKS AWFUL!!! OK, I'm exaggerating. Nobody comes right out and says that, but sometimes it feels like that's what's behind the joking and kidding. I'm not sure why people are so concerned about it, but it does leave me amused.
  • I had a call from Acquire the Fire today. It's a youth rally designed to wage battle for the souls and minds of today's youth. I was given some statistics about how many adults are currently Evangelical Christians (34%) as opposed to the small number of youth who are Christians today (4%). It's a battle, I was told. 90% of Christians come to Christ before the age of 20, I was told. We have to prepare our young people to wage battle with society and culture, I was told. I'm actually intrigued by the event, but not in a "take my youth so they can be warriors for Christ" kind of way. I'm more interested to see how they go about things. I'm curious as to whether their methods for conveying their message could be adapted to fit a different theology. i wonder about stuff like that. Would we do better at Presbytery retreats to scare the bejeezus out of the youth and send them back home? I don't think so, but it sounds like this event might have some elements of fear attached. I'm still pretty convinced that those who come to faith out of fear will end up like the seeds sown on the path (Matthew 13:1-23), in that when something that promises more security or that preys on a more deep seeded fear comes along, the faith will disappear.
  • All in all, I'm just not fond of the way that "Spiritual warfare" is used by some folks. When I read Ephesians 6:10-17 I see the words truth, righteousness, faith, and salvation. We are called to proclaim a gospel of peace, and the sword in this passage isn't a real sword, but rather the word of God. So, my question is, "How do we wield that sword peacefully?" If we're going to be "warriors," should we look to Jesus as one who redefines what a warrior is? Isn't he a warrior who lays down his weapons and places himself at the mercy of those who would destroy him? Yeah, I don't like using war imagery as a way to bring people to God.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


  • So, apparently, some democrats in Georgia and Alabama have introduced legislation that supports public schools teaching a "Bible as literature" course, and the intended text book is entitled The Bible and its Influence. My initial reaction is a good one. I'm not sure its revolutionary, a I know some schools that have been doing that for years. One person, in the New York Times article that I read, objected to it because, "It should also be noted that the so-called Bible bill doesn't use the Bible as the textbook, and would allow teachers with no belief at all in the Bible to teach the course." Um, yeah, so why is that a problem? This notion that the Bible is a textbook in and of itself seems kind of silly to me. If it's going to be taught as literature, there's so much that students would need to know. Anyway, I'm interested to hear how folks feel about that.
  • This Palestinian election has me thinking a lot about the democracy we're supposedly commited to spreading around the world. I know there have been reports of violence on election day, and I'm sure fear played some role in these elections, but it looks like the Palestinian people have made a choice for a party that openly supports violence to attain its goals in the world. I find it interesting that our government is posturing as if to deny the legitimacy of Hamas unless they renounce violence. Are we all about that power of the people to elect who they want to elect as long as they elect governments that see things the way we do? How can we really call for Hamas to cease violence, when we're in the midst of a campaign of violence in Iraq? Are we really commited to democracy? It's such a messed up situation over there, and these recent developments don't seem to shine much hope on things. Help me think about this.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lyric of the Week

This week's lyrics come from the musical Tick Tick Boom. I first encountered this song last summer at Montreat. I usually only include parts of songs, but this one's so good, I decided to include the whole thing. Enjoy.

Louder than Words

From the musical Tick Tick Boom by Jonathan Larson

Why do we play with fire?
Why do we run our finger through the flame?
Why do we leave our hand on the stove-
Although we know we're in for some pain?

Oh, why do we refuse to hang a light
When the streets are dangerous?
Why does it take an accident
Before the truth gets through to us?

Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds.

Fear or love, baby?
Don't say the answer
Actions speak louder than words.

Why should we try to be our best
When we can just get by and still gain?
Why do we nod our heads

Although we know The boss is wrong as rain?

Why should we blaze a trail
When the well worn path seems safe and
Jonathan and Susan:
So inviting?

How-as we travel, can we see the dismay-
And keep from fighting?


What does it take
To wake up a generation?
How can you make someone
Take off and fly?

If we don't wake up
And shake up the nation
We'll eat the dust of the world
Wondering why

Why do we stay with lovers
Who we know, down deep
Just aren't right?

Why would we rather
Put ourselves through hell
Than sleep alone at night?

Why do we follow leaders who never lead?

Why does it take catastrophe to start a revolution?

If we're so free, tell me why?

Someone tell me why
So many people bleed?


Not much to report

  • There really isn't much to report this week. It's been a stressful week, but nothing overwhelming. I'm in the process of trying to lock down the summer schedule for the youth and children of Harpeth Presbyterian Church. It's been a bit shifty so far. I'm hoping to resolve it by the end of the week.
  • I preached on Sunday, and it went over fairly well. There were parts I felt great about, and parts that felt rough. this was one of those times when I pray that God will use my imperfect offering to convey God's message to those who need to hear it. Thanks to those who posted comments. They were helpful as I wrestled with the text.
  • Seriously, not much to report.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dreary day...great lunch

Yes, it rained all day today, got colder as the day wore on, and eventually, the precipitation turned into wintery mix that then led to snow, that is now an icy snow. I have a feeling schools will be closed tomorrow. I hate rainy days, but I did have a great lunch with Stuart from The Good Fight. What an enlightened young man. I mean, this guy has more theological chops as a sophomore in college than I probably did after a year or two of seminary. Many props to Carrie Tuttle for bringing him up right in Burlington. Kudos to Jennifer Fouse for providing an awesome space for Stuart to grow spiritually at the Presbyterian Student Fellowship of Vanderbilt University. (Yes, there are two links in the paragraph) It was a real treat to have lunch with somebody who is so fired up about God and worship styles and dialogue and listening and just trying to glorify God in his daily life. Awesome.

I am currently sitting in bed listening to one of Gustav Holst's Suites for band. I guess if I had perfect pitch I'd know if it was in F or in Eb. These pieces of music are so simple but so beautiful.

I've been on a couple of awesome dates with a great girl in the past week or so. She's sassy, funny, and a great storyteller. Good times.

Great people I thought about today: Lindsey Wade, Mark Shivers, Matt Hardin, Harold Douglas, Edith Douglas, Jeff White, Kathleen O'Connor, and Tom Katona.

I'm preaching Sunday: Mark 1:14-20. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Lyric of the Week

This one comes from the late, great, Rich Mullins. What a genius:

So if I stand, let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through,
and if I can't let me fall on the grace that first brought me to you.
And if I sing, let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs,
and if I weep, let it be as a man who is longing for his home.
  • "If I Stand" from the album Songs by Rich Mullins
I love the emphasis this chorus places on God. If we stand, we stand because of God's promise. If we can't stand, Grace is still there supporting us. If we sing, we sing for joy, and if we weep, it's because we long to rest in the arms of God. God acts first...God is the foundation of all that we are. AWESOME!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another prayer

Here's a prayer I had ready to use on Sunday, but didn't, because we switched up our usual worship roles.

God of glory, God of grace,

You are truly a God of epiphanies, of aha moments, of moments when our world turns upside down and we are forever changed. You show up in the most unlikely of places, including the desert, the mouth of a donkey, and most recently, in a feeding trough in Bethlehem. Of course, the amazing thing is not the variety of ways in which you appear, but that you do, in fact, show up and say, “Aha.” Today, oh Lord, we are thankful for the sundry ways that you show up in churches all over the world, responding to the pleadings of people speaking in French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, and all the tongues of those whom you claim as your beloved children.

Today, we celebrate your selection of us as your children, your adoption of us into your most holy family, your willingness to pick us for your team, regardless of status, skill, or social appeal. It is truly our desire to seek you and find you in everything we do, and yet, you still surprise us, and we love you for that…we love you for being a God who reaches out and makes us shriek with delight at having seen something new and amazing. Aha, we say when our feet land back on the ground.

At this time, we are also mindful of those who suffer from physical, emotional, or spiritual pain…we pray that those who are feeling broken, might be mended by you and find the aha in lasting moments of wholeness and healing.

It is at this table that we come to be nourished, to proclaim to the world and to one another that we are your children, that you have claimed us as your own, that we serve a Lord who has overthrown the powers of death and darkness and who calls upon us to live so that the principalities and powers no longer reign. May your kingdom be made manifest in our lives…the kingdom ushered in by the one we call the Christ, who taught all of us to pray saying…Our Father.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Lyric of the Week

I've decided to begin posting lyrics that I like, either because they make me happy, or because they speak truth, or because they capture humanity, or simply because they move me for some unknown reason. Who better to begin with than Nickel Creek?
  • "I hope you meet someone your height, so you can see eye to eye, with someone as small as you."
    • Song: Somebody More Like You
    • Artist: Nickel Creek
    • Album: Why Should the Fire Die?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Let's hear it for global warming

  • Yes, for today, and today only, I'm setting aside my normal anger and rage at the lack of concern for environmental issues in our culture, because it is a balmy 75 degrees on this January 2nd, 2006. For today, and today only, I'm thankful for a trend in the world that would allow such a thing. It really helps one's general outlook on a new year when it's so beautiful outside.
  • Before I forget, I'd just like to acknowledge the Mizzou Tigers for their rousing victory over the gamecocks of South Carolina. What a great come from behind win. Thanks to all of the gracious congratulatory e-mails and text messages from my SC brethren and sisteren (???).
  • I've decided to weigh in a bit on the whole Christmas vs. Holidays debate. Here are my brief thoughts:
    • We, as Christians, on a large scale, seem to have forgotten that the Christmas season doesn't actually start until December 25th, and then lasts for the 12 days following that day. Officially, all of the time leading up is Advent, so maybe saying, "Merry Christmas" isn't exactly right.
    • If stores, communities, schools, whatever, want to call it the "Holiday Season," that's their prerogative. I'm pretty convinced that it is NOT our job, as Christians, to transform our society into a purely Christian state. On the flip side, I think that organizations that wish to claim their religious affiliation and designate a specific holiday (Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, etc.) ought to be able to do so without fear of persecution of some sort.
    • The incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ isn't about trees, decorations, parades, parties, or any of the other nonsense the surrounds Christmas. I think it was Buechner who said that the incarnation ought to be something scary, not a feelgood event. I'll check my reference for that.
    • Why do Christians in America feel such a great need for the state, schools, municipalities, etc. to legitimize our faith? The gospel doesn't gain its power from any of those places. God doesn't gain legitimacy from a public school's "Christmas/Holiday" concert. Why does it bother us so much that institutions that have no religious affiliation fail to use religious language? I'm sure Newbigin has something to say about all of this.
  • So, there are my thoughts on that, for today. Push back...help me understand what I don't understand.