rick & 1j13
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
The Stand: the Saliva Doctrine
[This is my parable on our own limitations...]

Once upon a time, there was an island filled with people who had never heard of the One True God. One day, a page of a Bible washed ashore - a page ripped somehow from the New Testament, containing Mark 8:22-26. The people read it with glee, discovering a new way to follow this Man, Jesus. And they learned about Healing. Jesus spit on a man's eyes, and that man could see again. That story had a significant impact on the group, because genetically there were alot of folks with bad eyesight.

Saliva was rendered holy. Anyone caught spitting on the ground was thrown into the stockade in the public square to face humiliation in the midday sun. Spit in the mouth was ok, and many folks enjoyed the holy meditation of swishing the liquid back and forth with their cheeks. Love and appreciation for others was shown by spitting on them - the face was the preferred target, but anywhere the spittle landed was considered blessed and lucky for the foreseeable future. If spit it was expectorated, as is necessary from time to time to avoid drowning, it was to be splooshed (the religiously technical term) into glass jars and carefully marked. For safety and sanitation, any spit older than thirty days was destroyed in a public fashion, with the jar and everything else thrown into the sea in a grand ceremony.

No one remembers whether anyone on the island ever gained better or healed eyesight, and the spitting had an adverse reaction on those not suspecting someone else's blessed sploosh. But this was their religion, following after the One True God. And their page was the authority of Jesus to them. They started attending Spit Festivals and having Holy Spit Conferences, inviting tribal leaders to give a witness to the impact of saliva in their own lives. Each one was drawn to God, and somehow repulsed at the same time - but they thought this was the only way to serve Jesus and to seek better eyesight. Some folks doubted, and soon faction arose over the use and need for splooshing in the public marketplace of ideas.

One day, someone washed up on the same beach as before, this time clinging to another portion of the Bible - this time, a small fragment of John 9:1-12. In the passage, Jesus not only used spit, but he used the saliva to make mud to heal a person's eyes. The man was heralded as a prophet, and he hosted many Spit & Dirt Revival meetings. There was much rejoicing, and it got very dirty. Soon, a new group of folks followed the Way of the Bubbly Mud, much to the chagrin of the Saliva-Only practitioners.

..... I could go on, I suppose, but I think I've conveyed the point. The next guy to come ashore tells of Elijah telling Naaman to dunk in the river seven times for healing (2 Kings 5), and a new island community of 7-Dunkers (not six or eight because that's blasphemy) arises. More and more, they get a little and a little revelation of God, but no one really seems to get the whole picture. That's what I see today - that we've got huge portions of the Story, but there's still holes in what we believe and actually act upon. One group has Spit, another has Mud, yet another is 7-Dunking, and another is hung up on only drinking water that's been turned to wine. We don't have the whole picture - and all of this in the story, and most of it seemingly in the real world, comes out of our understanding more than out of the natural maturing relationship Jesus wants with us.

Truth is truth, and it doesn't need the descriptive "absolute" in front of it to give it any more authority or truthfulness than it already has. However, our ability to know it and convey it is severely limited individually by our own lack of perspective. That's why it's important to value relationships and community, allowing us to seek Christ together and to put our pieces of the truth together - working out salvation together in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12; Heb 10:25) is a missing commodity these days. On top of all that, though, is the realization that we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12), and that God alone holds Truth. Absolutely.
The Stand: Evangelism
I've gone through Jesus and the Bible, talked a bit on Relationships and Conversations, and finally putting down what I've discovered about Sin & Forgiveness - namely, that we all have done it and all need it, so we should spend less time pointing out the former and more time living a life full of the latter. The next logical (not that logic is driving this, trust me) questions would have to do with witnessing, evangelism, and how this plays out in the world I've found myself living in....

Glad you asked :)

My "best" attempts at evangelism have been "dimmer-switch"-based. That's a new phrase I picked up from TheOffRamp.org, describing how people probably already have some interaction with God before I ever start a conversation, and if in the course of time we turn up the dimmer switch and shine that light a little brighter into the crevices of our lives, then we've done our job. A few years ago, I described the same thing to some friends in small group, saying that I am not a good judge of someone's salvation, but that if I could somehow be used to move a person "one step closer" to Jesus, then I'd been successful. Saved or not, we all need more light, and we all need to take one step closer to Christ in our each of our individual lives - don't we?

I know that Ray Comfort and others espouse a methodology of looking to the Ten Commandments first, bringing conviction into the equation, engaging the conscience before intellect, and then introducing Christ's love and redemption that leads to repentance and a real transformation of life. I understand it, and I see the need to have a focus on repentance in a world where everyone thinks they're saved because they went to Sunday School with Granny when they were little. Billy Graham said that our biggest mission field just might be the Sunday morning pews of North America. In that sense, a focus on the Law and our inherent shortcomings is a welcome message to bring about change. But I have a problem with the tendency to "guilt" people into the kingdom. If we're only talking about "getting saved" and "avoiding hell and God's condemnation", then this is probably the best message for that. Comfort's ideas, along with Campus Crusade's Four Spiritual Laws, the Roman Road, and others came from a search to get beyond the "easy" gospel of "Jesus loves you know matter what, and He will make your life so much better" - but is that "the gospel"?

"Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand" - that's the gospel (Matt 4:17). You could argue that "repent" is meaningless without knowing what you're repenting from. I'd say you were right, but that you've also got too low a view of repentance. It's more than just being sorry for your sin; more than telling Jesus you're sorry for messing up like everyone else. There's a discipleship process, too, where you learn how to live this new kingdom life, where you mature into a person reflecting the glory of God instead of the pride of your old life. New obedience is as much a part of it as confession of old sin. Repentance is a total change of life and mindset that usually doesn't take place outside of relationship and conversation - at least, that's the way it's portrayed in the Bible. We drop the ball when we only think of "evangelism" in terms of "getting people saved" and not also "making disciples". And I feel like I'm better suited towards conversations and relationships, and where those things cross spiritually there's a harvest growing for real kingdom-people living real kingdom-lives.

The norm has been an exclusionist approach to salvation, following the principle Jesus lays out in John 14:6 - "no one comes to the Father but by Me". I don't want to look at it quite the same way, though. What if He was simply sharing that, "if you're looking for God, you're going to have to come through Me, because I'm the only one who can lead you to where He is - come this way and follow Me". What if we partner this verse with, "you will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart" (Deut 4:29; Jer 29:13)? Instead of keeping people out of heaven, He's pointing out a signpost for all to see - and it says "Come On In", not "No Trespassing". I'm glad that the kingdom of God is more *inclusive* than *exclusive*, because it's open enough and welcoming enough for me to come in, too.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Call For Questions
I've been posting "The Stand" (I've got to come up with a better title) for a few days now, and I only foresee a few more entries. But I'm curious about what others think, not just in agreement but also in disagreement. I haven't had many comments in those entries - either because folks fall asleep reading, or they're just not moved to responding. But this is a request for your feedback. I know you're out there - I "write for me", but it's always been a fun blessing to know that others are reading along, too. And as I've laid it bare so to speak, I would really appreciate any feedback on any of the topics I've already hit and any of the upcoming entries.

I'll add this - maybe some haven't responded because it's just so darn agreeable with where they're at. But do you have a friend who'd disagree? Or someone in your life who'd appreciate the chance to ask questions? Maybe there's someone you've been trying to talk to about "the emerging church" or whatever, and something like these entries can at least jumpstart the conversation. Pass them a link or two (I've got the different pieces linked on the top right sidebar) - I'd appreciate the interaction.

Thanks & peace - we now re-join our network programming, already in progress.
The Stand: Sin & Forgiveness (Reprise)
Had this inboxed when I posted this morning - cool:
The Stand: Sin & Forgiveness
Basically, I'm tired of not being an Amy Grant fan.

When I was growing up, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith were the tops on my list of who's cool in CCM. I'd do odd jobs, get paid, and rush to the Book & Bible Shop on Sunset Drive to buy the latest LP or cassette (yes, I'm that old - stop it!). I went with friends from church to see the Straight Ahead Tour, where Amy spent the entire evening hopping barefoot around the stage at the Township Auditorium and MWS was her keyboardist, taking the intermission set to highlight stuff from his MWS 2 project. I saw her again, front row center at the Carolina Coliseum in college, for the Heart In Motion Tour. I saw her at Carowinds one summer, and continued to buy her albums and CDs. I saw Michael W. Smith one time as a headliner, with dc Talk opening for the event in Greenville in the early 90s.

And then Amy released Behind The Eyes. I was struck by how beautiful it was musically and how empty and painful it was lyrically. Soon, rumors spread about her relationship to her husband, Gary Chapman. Officially, they separated and divorced, and I entered the ranks of those who appreciated her music, but looked judgmentally and bitterly at her for taking the "easy way out" of divorce. Her subsequent re-marriage to Vince Gill didn't help. MWS kept making albums, but I lost interest until the most recent Worship stuff. I didn't want to follow the crowd in slamming Amy (dang hypocritical of me, I know), so I slipped away from contemporary Christian music almost totally. She'd hurt me personally - even though it had happened to others, like Sandy Patty and Michael English, I'd taken this one much more personally, much more hurtfully. It's like I could've seen it coming in that one album, and then WHAM, we all got divorced and the blinders came off the relationship (let go of MWS, too - guilt by association).

Sin is anything that is outside the dominion of God. That might be too broad for you, or it might be too narrow. For me, it means that anything done, thought, articulated or contemplated that does not include God and His take on Reality and what really matters - that is sin. Where the Ten Commandments give a list of statements and warnings for the people of God, Jesus goes deeper in the Sermon on the Mount to address our inner heart issues, too. We cannot protest every abortion clinic and gay-rights establishment in town, and then neglect to take a stand against immoral taxation, the lack of ethics among business and political leaders, and the continued humiliation of minorities. We can't get righteously indignant and the preacher on TV spewing his false doctrine, and then join in with a smile in the gossip going on in the Sunday afternoon deacon's meeting. Sin is sin, and God doesn't like it because it's basically not good for us.

On the other hand, forgiveness is very real, isn't it? What is redemption if it's not a restoration of relationship, forgiving and moving forward together no matter the hurt or pain? I am so quick to point the finger of condemnation, and I am so slow at holding out a hand, saying, "C'mon, I forgive you, let's start walking together again". Jesus died for all sin - not just the big ones, not just the named ones, not just the top ten, but all of them - to forgive and restore and complete God's perfect character of justice coexisting with mercy (Romans 3:23-26). Where people are held accountable for their sin, we are also held accountable to forgive, to bring Jesus' victory to bear in removing the stain, the speck and our own logs.

I cannot hold your sin against you. I can learn from the fruitfulness of your life how much I can trust you, how truthful you are, how responsible you are - but I cannot look down on you because of sin. I must forgive, and I must convey that forgiveness in love and acceptance and kindness leading to repentance. It's not about a blind acceptance of a person's sin, but as much as it's possible, I have to give you the benefit of the doubt and love you past the sin. I can intercede, I can be kind & patient, and I can love you regardless of perceived wrongs because Jesus died for sin, yours and mine.

A friend of mine is going through a divorce, and in one email exchange, he wrote, "You'll just have to trust me on this one." He was absolutely right, and as I was reading it, Amy Grant came on my MusicMatch station, streaming through the headphones. Something from the Straight Ahead LP - and I thought, "I hate not being an Amy Grant fan." I can be my friend's fan, and I can be Amy's fan. Despising what has happened, and the level of un-love that exists in this world because of sin, I can still look on them with love and admiration, just like Jesus does even now.

Mark Shipman, in his book At The Feet Of Jesus, writes, "Humans are most godlike when they forgive. They are most devilish when they accuse. Accusation and forgiveness are the extremes in the war between good and evil (as illustrated in Zech. 3:1-4)", p. 13.

We've all fallen short of the glory of God. We've all dropped the ball and acted ruthlessly and selfishly. There are things we've done that other people are in jail for - think about that a little bit and wiggle in your chair in front of the PC. And through all of it, and in spite of all of it, God doesn't hold our sin against us. He gave His only begotten Son to maintain His own integrity and holiness and character in the midst of wanting to spend time with us. The least I can do is look at others the same way. And I don't have to hide my Amy Grant CDs anymore.
Monday, June 28, 2004
The Stand: Conversations
I don't know many folks who would lift up "Conversation" as a part of their apologetic and theology, but I can't seem to get around it. Just like my views of Christ, the Trinity and the Bible are wrapped up in Relationship, I feel like Conversation might be one of those untapped & unrecognized areas of life where we need to be taking it more seriously in view of God's value on the spoken word.

I've probably heard more sermons over the years about our mouths being a problem than about our mouths being a source of blessing. But beginning in Genesis 1 and all the way through to Revelation 22, you find God speaking - to creation, to us, to the world that needs to be in relationship with Him - and it seems that the mouth used in encouragement and blessing is an amazing tool in the will and power of God's grace & creativity (James 3).

Why are words so meaningful? What we speak tends to reveal who we are inside. The language we use shows the world more about out inner lives than we probably think. We can be hurtful, whether in actual word choice, or in tone, or in stubbornness. We can also be very caring, again by word choice, by tone and by perseverance & patience. I can bless someone with encouragement, or I can curse someone with grief - all by just saying something. When God sought to thwart the plans of men to lift themselves to His level at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), He messed with their language. He knew that the lack of communication would destroy their plans more readily than devastation. God speaks and things happen; people speak, and things happen, because we're created in His image. Our mouths have incredible power for good and for evil.

One of the main sticking points for me over the years has been my tendency towards pride, and that comes out at its worst in my conversations. I've learned that when I'm talking with someone, I have to be open to receiving from them - not just telling them what I think or making sure my opinions are accepted, but that I can be open to their thoughts and ideas, open to change within myself as much as hoping the other participant is changing, too. This means that even in the "witnessing conversation", I need to be open to learning something or to even be challenged and changed through the interaction (in Matthew 25:34-40, it looks like we might be "talking to Jesus" and "serving Jesus" more often than we think - doesn't that mean we should be listening, too?).

When we speak, our first attitude should be love and mercy. I'm convinced that if someone is judged with love & mercy, that judgment will be more readily accepted and acted upon. But we are so quick to judge that love & mercy often have no chance to rise to the surface, and our conversations turn into debates and arguments. A good conversation will have teaching points and learning points from both/all interacting parties - see a good case study in THE LAST SAMURAI: "I have enjoyed this conversation".

We need to talk to each other, and listen to each other more than we speak. Often we jump in, jumping on their words. Or we listen half-heartedly and half-hearingly, making sure we don't miss the next play in the ballgame on TV. But I've also found that this "theology of conversation" must take into account that we are usually not very good listeners, that we are very subjective to the "reality" being discussed, and that we need practice in this area desperately. Listen to God, listen to each other, listen to the road noise without a radio blaring, listen to the rain fall on the metal roof outside. I need to practice holding my tongue, especially when my first instinct would be to speak up and say my piece (Lev 26:14ff - "'But if you will not listen to Me....").
Cool Job Listings
  • CNN.com - Smells that sell not to be sniffed at - Jun 27, 2004
    This would be a great line for a resume': "I've had otter poo on my desk," said Knight, who created the odor for a zoo's nature trail, alongside the smell of jaguar urine and rotting flesh.
    Rainy Days & Mondays
    Why is it that every time I think of writing about Monday, it's either this Carpenters' song, or "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas & the Papas, or Garfield's mantra, "I hate Mondays"?

    Actually, it's pretty wet here. Almost ten inches of rain during the month of June, and more coming this afternoon. The yard looks good (friend of mom's worked it last week), but that won't last long if more goofy limbs break off the trees. I'm up this morning - something I didn't want to be just an hour ago. And I'm dressed and ready to head out the door. Work work work - a good thing, and I'm ready to have a good week, get a good bit of testing done, and move forward in all the little nagging projects scattered around my cubicle.

    Still a bit dazed from last week's "philosophical exertion." I'll probably blog in "The Stand" series on the importance of Conversations next, then Forgiveness & Mercy, then finally getting to Salvation & Redemption - I really think that it's best to think of things in that order. Most of the time when I try to explain what I've grown to believe, those who have differing or seemingly more solid viewpoints want to try to get me to see things their way, which to them is the "right way". I don't usually end up arguing against anyone else's perception, and I'm finding it easier to support my own views with scripture and reasoning and a little heartfelt mercy towards them... hopefully. Anyway, that's the plan for now, subject to change without notice of course.

    As always, thanks for letting me spew.
    Sunday, June 27, 2004
    The Stand: Relationships
    I'm working my way through a bout of writer's block as I continue this thread in "Relationships". Bear with me...

    Everything we are about in this life is wrapped up in relationship. We imitate our parents first, and later we rebel against them. We long for everyone's approval, and then we turn on each other at the slightest whim. We think no one else will look out for us, so we make sure we're taken care of for ourselves. It's only in living a life that put's others ahead of ourselves do we find real contentment and community on this planet.

    Our major interaction with each other is through conflict. A major portion of your own maturing process has been in the realization that you have more love for those who wrong you now than you did before - am I right? Your patience, manifested as fruit from your life, is keeping you from offense, is keeping you grounded enough to forgive and to love in spite of betrayal.

    Another aspect of relationship that changes for the one growing in Christ is selflessness. Before, you would "act selflessly" in order to get something, or to manipulate people or situations to your benefit. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and often our discipline system at home is based on that same set of "rules", I guess. But as you grow in Christ, you find yourself sacrificing for someone else's good just because it's the right thing to do. You find yourself acting in a way that might even be detrimental to your plans, but it's a joy to be able to lift up someone else. you serve as Jesus served and love as He loved - because it's a natural outflow of Him in your life.

    One more thing from my own self-inspection: I hope I'm not judging people as much as I seem to be. At least, I pray that my discernment doesn't negatively effect my view of anyone. As I talk with friends about deep life issues, let me pray first and console or exhort second, but let me also give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that God is already doing in them what I see and what I can't. It's a dreadful thing to stand in judgment, knowing that I've been guilty of so much more myself, and that I'm in need of mercy and forgiveness more than anyone else I might know.

    If I could point to three things that can strengthen us as individuals and as partners together, those things would be:
    1) In conflict, forgive
    2) In action, do for others first
    3) In judgment, pray

    peace - rick
    Saturday, June 26, 2004
    The Stand: the Bible (Reprise)
    Got this in an email (I've been cross-posting to the 1J13 email list):Not sure what'll come next, but I am having fun.
    Weird @ Wal-Mart
  • CNN.com - Blood-soaked customer arrested - Jun 26, 2004: "Wal-Mart workers called deputies after a blood-soaked man walked into the store and bought some clothes, bandages and trash bags around 4 a.m. He paid with a $100 bill that also appeared to be bloodstained, they said, and drove off in a pickup."

    Just how WEIRD is it at this Wal-Mart at FOUR A.M. that this guy was able to SHOP in the CLOTHING DEPARTMENT, head to the FIRST AID SECTION, and then to the TRASH BAGS and even to the CASHIER without being arrested WHILE IN THE STORE?!?
    The Stand: the Bible
    I'll continue the "where I stand" thoughts with the way I see and read the Bible, because if anything has really changed over the past ten years, it's right here.

    I have come to understand that my stance on Christ as the foundation is the only thing that lends real credence to the Scriptures. Jesus is Truth, and the Bible is a book of truths revealing Truth. Where He is the Logos of God (John 1:1), the Bible follows suit, through stories and parables and prose, detailing for us what's really meaningful and life-giving in this world (Psalm 119:66). When Jesus speaks, it's important. When God inspires men to put pen to paper, it's because He has a message (Revelation 1:19). That message is contained in the Bible, and any other message worth anything will be backed up by the full testimony of Scripture. The message of Paul, the message of Peter, the message of Jeremiah, the message of Solomon, the message of Obadiah, the message of Moses and the many other voices and messages all point to the same thing, the gospel: "The kingdom of God is at hand - live like it."

    When I say that the Bible is "inerrant", I mean that there are no mistakes in there: that the people writing wrote what God wanted them to write, and that men over the centuries have translated it as accurately as possible with the divine gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit. "Inerrant" means that we've got pretty much written now what was written then.

    When I say that the Scriptures are "infallible", I mean pretty much the same thing, only twisted: that God didn't write anything untrue. I don't have to dismiss something I don't understand just because it's outside the realm of human knowledge or experience. "Infallible" means to give God the benefit of my doubt, and that doesn't allow me to write off what we've seemingly "proven to be false". If it's not written the way we would've written it, it just goes to show once again that He's God and we're not. He hasn't tried to mess us up, but instead to bring His perspective to bear on reality. That's huge, and not to be taken lightly. Too much of the time, we explain away the scriptures, either with our bad theology and interpretation, by ignorance and not digging to find what the Bible is really saying, or by outright deception in discounting passages we would deem to be wrong. "Infallible" means that since we have an inerrant Bible that's been copied and translated down through the years, we can also trust that what's written is exactly as God intended, and that His intentions toward us are outlined therein. "Infallible" and "inerrant" don't necessarily mean that everything is or has to be "factual" - just that what's there is what God wanted there, and that if it's in there, it's true. Read it as literally as you can, and when that stops making sense in accordance with how God has revealed Himself, only then can we start reading it figuratively. Leave the contradictions alone, because they beef up the story. Leave the problems in there, because they seem to tell us that we don't know the whole story yet, that we're still missing something and still need to grow in understanding and love.

    The subtle semantic difference between "truth" and "fact" is probably the biggest thing I needed to discover. "Fact" is based on perception, whether it's from culture, time, circumstance or experience. Truth, however, is truth, always and forever, regardless of culture, time, circumstance or experience. The Bible is truth, and it has some facts - but it's all good and all true.

    Context, context, context. Never rely on anyone to tell you what a passage means. Check and double check, and cross-reference all you can. When history is being shared, consider the perspectives of all the characters. When prophecy is shared, consider God's intent and man's response as it unfolds in history. Don't "just read the Bible" - read it, and make every effort to "get it".

    Dwell on the hurts as much as the pain. Read the Old Testament and fall in love with Jesus back there, as you see God interact just like He does in the New Testament. Spend time reading the prophets, even if their names are hard to spell or pronounce. Get to know God the way they did, failures and triumphs together. Mourn with the Lord over Jerusalem in the OT, and with Jesus over Jerusalem in the NT. Don't read in anything that's not there - question every interpretation you can, and come at the scripture from a new direction to get a new glimpse of what's being written to you today. It's good for showing you what's right, what's not right, how to get right, and how to stay right (2 Timothy 3:16-17) - and notice that three-fourths of those attributes are about the "right" thing, and only one is about pointing out the "wrong" thing. I know that God is harsh in many places of the OT - don't dismiss that, but instead let it fill out your own thoughts of God and who He is. Grieve when babies are killed, and rejoice when people praise the Father. Feel the anger of the psalms, and feel the redemptive pursuit of the psalms. It's all good, together, intertwined, meaningful and transformational.

    The Bible is not a textbook with the answers in the back; instead, it's a book of questions that are in themselves answers to what we're really looking for. The Bible is not a roadmap for my life; instead, it's a glimpse at the journeys of so many people, showing me what to look for along the narrow path. The Bible is not an owner's manual for the human life; instead, it's a romance, a dance for the Creator and His Creation, for the Lover and His Bride. It holds a position somewhere above its interpretation, meaning what God wants it to mean more than we claim that it means, and that He's the only One who can open it up for us (1 Cor 2:14).

    I appreciate that we have a Bible, something written down that anyone can own, anyone can read, and that we can gather together to read it together and live it out together. It's amazing that it even exists. It's been modified a little to make it user-friendly: chapters and verses have only been around for only about five or six hundred years. Before that, even having a Bible would've been a travesty because the religious establishment didn't think the common family would understand it and needed to be protected from it by people who could tell them what it meant. You've probably got more than one Bible now - and that's not something that people over the centuries have been able to enjoy.

    Hold onto Jesus and you'll find yourself loving the Bible, because it talks about Him in ways only folks in love with Him would want to ponder and understand. The Bible is not Christ, not the Messiah - this book did not die for God's forgiveness of sin, and it's not a person of the Trinity. But it's good - real good - at showing us the heart of God, even as His heart was poured through the authors' hearts and onto the pages to flow into our hearts and beyond. You'll find yourself not so much reading the Bible, but having it read you.

    One more thing: there is also an authority that resides within scripture. To say that it is "authoritative" is to say that it speaks with relevance to me as a person in pursuit of God. Reading it opens opportunities and grace to do as it says, to obey as Jesus commands. But all of that is wrapped up in the foundational qualities of Christ - tradition and reason are not enough to give this weight to the Bible.

    Friday, June 25, 2004
    Losing Your Cool & Speed Racer
  • CNN.com - Cheney curses senator over Halliburton criticism - Jun 24, 2004
    What?!? This is the gentleman "one heartbeat from the presidency"?
      Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was on the receiving end of Cheney's ire, confirmed that the vice president used profanity during Tuesday's class photo.

      A spokesman for Cheney confirmed there was a "frank exchange of views."
    Oh. Well, that clears it for me.

  • CNN.com - Here comes 'Speed Racer' -- the movie - Jun 25, 2004
    Oh yeah - that's cool.
    Photo Friday

    My wife and kids shot this over Lake Lure this week. Oooooo, pretty colors.
    Thursday, June 24, 2004
    The Stand: God the Father & the Holy Spirit
    It's been a philosophically tough week. But it's important for each of us to discover God, and to follow Him as He reveals Himself. These essays are not intended to be doctrinal dissertations on the meaning of life, just my ramblings on what these various "churchy words" really mean to me at this point in the process. Of course, if you disagree with me or have any questions, please post - I promise not to say funny things about the way you're combing your hair and stuff.

    I don't want to move too far down this path without also sharing some thoughts on God the Father and on the Holy Spirit, building on what I wrote earlier on the Person of Jesus Christ. I know that we've had some discussion recently on the necessity and understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. In a nutshell, God is God (Exodus 20:2), Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; Matthew 28:19). There is one God, and as much as we can tell, these three personalities are the same entity and at the same time three aspects of the same Person. All three are individually a Person. The Holy Spirit is not an It, but a He. The Father is I AM, and He is loving and merciful and holy, each trait being first and foremost at the same time in all three Persons.

    When talking about God culturally, most people don't know Him. It's a concept, not a personality yearning for relationship. He's not the grandfather in the sky, arbitrarily posting rules and regulations, smiting all the sinners and patting the heads of all the blonde kids. He doesn't act like us, doesn't react, isn't surprised or perplexed. He doesn't lose His cool, thankfully, and He loves us beyond our own limitations. He created us, and knows our worth better than we do, knows our potential better than we do, and knows our weaknesses and strengths better than we do.

    Sometimes, God is silent. We can't hear Him because we're not listening, or because we have shut Him off by opening ourselves to too much worldly noise, or because we are in sin and holy things are not on our minds. Or, He is silent of His own choosing. That is His right and prerogative. We are tested in the quiet times, moreso than in the He-spoke-to-me times. There is never a time when God doesn't love you. There is never a time when He will desert you. But He might hide for awhile, and wait for to see how long it is before you come looking.

    God is in control, but only to the point where He sovereignly chooses to not intervene: namely, in the realm of our free will, our ability to choose wisely or not. While He is "in control", we are not automatons under His control. He does not use a remote control to flip our channels. Much like a child is under a parent's "control", there are rules and warnings and chores, and the parent directs the child towards successful obedience and discipline. That's how I view God's control and sovereignty.

    The Holy Spirit is the personal manifestation of the post-resurrection Messiah (2 Cor 13:12-14), gracing and empowering (Micah 3:8) and urging us onward in fulfilling God's will around us. He instructs us in the ways of God (John 14:26), and He gifts us in particular ways for particular assignments. The gifts of the Spirit are given through the ministry of the Spirit, even as He interceded with groanings that go beyond our language and understanding (Romans 8:26). He is the Comforter, the Healer, and we can only "communicate" with Him in the spiritual realm: that is, our spirit, newly born and formed by the miracle of Christ in us, can interact with the Holy Spirit, and as we live by the spirit within, we are in proper alignment to hear from God. Most of the time, however, we try to make decisions and hear from God through our own feelings, our own intuition, our own perceptions - through our flesh - and we miss out on what He's trying to say. I hate it when that happens.
    On Same-Sex Marriage
    USATODAY.com - A new generation spreads the word: "While evangelical leaders, including his father, call for a ban on gay marriage, [Cameron] Strang says Relevant 'upholds the same moral standard but questions whether we need the government to enforce our beliefs, our religion, on people who don't adhere to the same faith.'"
    USC Baseball - One More To Finals
    It's been a good week. After the first round loss, the Gamecocks have won three games, and still need to beat Cal-State Fullerton one more time tonight to move into the weekend best-of-three series with Texas. Lots of fun so far!

    UPDATE: USC 0, CSF 4 - The Gamecocks are coming home. Fun while it lasted, and who needs to watch heart attack baseball over the weekend anyway....
    Wednesday, June 23, 2004
    The Stand: Jesus Christ
    In talking about where I stand, I need to start here - because Jesus is the only foundational thing that I've fought mentally, spiritually and culturally to uphold. Frankly, everything else has been up for grabs, for better or for worse. In so many of the "postmodern church" or "emerging church" circles, I see people deconstruct too far. They remove Jesus from the context of scriptures and real existence, and try to make Him fit into some other mold or manta. I'd rather be changed by Him, than to try to change Him. When I toss my own ideas on that subject into the ring, I feel like I'm either shot down by those who no longer hold to any foundational truths, or there's a subtle rising of other folks who go "whew, I'm glad someone else still likes to have Jesus around".

    Two books have challenged the way I think, both by Brian McLaren. In Finding Faith, he writes about how we need to ask better questions, and then let any good answers we find lead us to better questions again. He also details what I think is the best journey-map for growing in spiritual maturity. In going from one level to another, there is always going to be pain (I'm paraphrasing) as we let go of previously held "foundations" and jump onto what is hopefully a more solid footing. We have to let go of things we hold dear, or if we can't, we end up saying "no" and stifling our journey. Too many people never move forward, not wanting to let go of things with which they're comfortable, not taking into account that these might be the very things holding them back.

    His other book that whacked me has been New Kind Of Christian, a novel of the journey from "having it all figured out" towards a new path of "let's keep learning and keep maturing". As I read the book, I joined an email list discussion, and that's where the wheels came off. It's there that I really first discovered that people project onto the characters what they want them to be and do. Folks made comments that were so blatantly wrong that I wondered if they were reading the same book. It seemed like they wanted the characters to take Jesus out of everything, while I was reading that Jesus was still in everything, just in a new and more meaningful and authentic way than ever before. I was seeing more Jesus, and others seemed to be negotiating Him out of the cycle. I realize that it was my own bias to keep Him in the loop that made me read it that way, that I was no different except for the mindset at the beginning. But I thank God that I didn't try to figure it out without Jesus squarely in the middle of things.

    So I hold on to Jesus, tightly. He is the Son of God (Matthew 11:27), the Word of God (John 1:1), and He is God (John 8:58), living today after dying for the forgiveness of my sin (Matthew 26:28) and resurrecting to new life so that I might do likewise (Romans 6:5; John 15:5). He died "for God" first (Romans 3:25-26), for me second (John 3:16), and His redemption "saves me" to follow Him more than it keeps me out of hell. When I read scripture, I watch how He interacts with people, and I think about their reactions to Him in the circumstance. The best part of The Passion Of The Christ for me was looking at Jesus' eyes, seeing how people looked at Him and how He connected with them in an instant, in ways that really changed their lives. The parables ooze with truths that break down "truths". Where this present cultural mindset is against "absolute truth", I see Jesus having and being "Truth, absolutely". I see Him being countercultural to the Roman forces around Him, and to the prevalent religious structure He came to redeem and to set straight in love. I see Him being merciful first (John 8:11), serving first (John 13), and being judgmental only to those who should've known better. And I hear Him saying, "you can do it, too, and even better" (John 14:12), as He calls us individually and corporately (in that order) to a life that's more abundant than the ones we're living (John 10:10), individually and corporately (in that order), today. He calls us to serve, to lay down our living so that others might have life (John 15:13), and to bring glory to the Father as He is prone to do.

    It's like I've rediscovered His deity and His humanity on this journey, and my old ideas of who He is and what He's about have been too small up to now. As I've held onto Him, He's held onto me, and gotten that much more glorious and that much more magnificent for the exchange.

    UPDATE: Had this in my inbox, and thought it fit into this "stand":
    Midweek Meandering
    It's Wednesday. My family will be home tomorrow. I've missed my kids, their loud boisterous fun reverberating around the house (when they get back, I'll probably be yelling "keep it down!", but give me my moment of sentimentality, ok?). Last night was especially quiet. I got home after a nice evening out with friends, and during the night's thunderstorm our electricity had gone off. It was really quiet, and I had to stumble around alone in the dark looking for matches and candles - with my wife on my cellphone trying to navigate for me from a hundred miles away.

    I've missed my wife - conversations over the phone, much like with email or even on this blog, just aren't the same as seeing another person's face when talking about the day's happenstances. I'm glad they're coming home, glad they'll be in town in time for church, looking forward to them running to hug-attack me in the back offices.I've got some thoughts that are disturbing. Not that the thoughts themselves are causing me any grief - on the contrary, they affirm what's probably been building in me for some time. No, the "disturbing" part is that I'm not sure anyone would understand, not sure if the people around me, the ones closest to me, would still accept me in the same light if they knew what I was thinking. These thoughts have to do with salvation, evangelism, the Gospel, politics - big chunky pieces of theology and doctrine that most people have already figured out, or cultural phenomena that I "should be taking more seriously", I suppose. There's some deconstructing going on, and that hurts people - stretches our pride, bruises our ego, takes us to the edge of the cliff faster than we'd otherwise go on our own.

    But I was challenged last night to stand for something - not that I don't stand for certain foundational essentials in my walk with Christ, but that no one really knows what those are for me. Frankly, I might not know them either. I've deconstructed farther than anyone else in my real-people-sphere-of-influence. I've tried to leave Jesus as the only bedrock, and everything else from scripture interpretation to my political stances is up for grabs. I trust God to take care of me in that mess. I really do. I don't want to be disagreeable for the sake of being disagreeable - that's not beneficial, and if that's the way I'm actually coming across it might explain why I don't find much benefit in the whole exchange.

    One of my beefs is that I hate to be a stereotype, a label, a statistical formula - I think our faith is more complex than that, and at the same time in Christ, it's more simple, too. I can live with the paradox, within the apparent contradiction, as long as it can be lived out with integrity, authenticity and generosity. And if I'm going to err, I'd rather be too loving, too merciful, too servant-oriented. Not that I am any of those things on any consistent basis, but you get the picture. I guess what I'm finding is that I need to be more comfortable with being labelled, though - and then from within that definition, I need to be able to stretch it out to something I don't mind wearing. Maybe.

    So, I'll post over the next few weeks "where I stand" - all my solid truths, my equally solid doubts, and my questioning answers to life, the universe and everything. It'll be good to get that stuff down somewhere, making me have to think through life the way I see it so that others know what they're getting and where they're going when they tag along with me.

    Thanks for playing. Did I mention that my family is coming home tomorrow?
    You are Spearmint.

    You are quick-witted and sharp. You pay close attention to details and you can tell what your friends are feeling. You are always the first to understand a joke and you are valued for your insight and advice. However, you sometimes isolate yourself from other people, afraid to share your own feelings.

    Most Compatible With: Cinnamon

    Which Tic-Tac Flavor Are You?
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    Tuesday, June 22, 2004
    Still More...
  • CNN.com - South Korea: Hostage killed - Jun 22, 2004
    Dang. Dang dang dang dang dang.
    Where Are The Summer Movies?

    When my wife and kids take their midsummer jaunts and leave me behind, I take those opportunities to catch movies they wouldn't be interested in. I'm not big on escapism in movies, so it's not a big action/comedy funfest (although I am going to try to catch DODGEBALL tomorrow night, just for fun). Usually, I see the action/thinking/dialogue flicks, the ones where we'd be fast-forwarding through the gore at home so my wife can watch, where the movie is so slow or so talkie that it wouldn't hold out attention with the kids running up and down the stairs (like they did for THE LAST SAMURAI a couple of nights ago.

    All that to say, there's not that many movies out right now that I want to see. But I do want to see, and might see tonight, is .THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK. I feel like I need to rent PITCH BLACK first, but that won't happen if I go to the movie tonight. The RelevantMag artcile above is good, and where I'd blown it off before, I think I'm going to try to see it while it's still at least impressive sound- and music-wise in the theaters. I've talked myself out of seeing SAVED!, and I think TROY might have to wait for DVD.
    USC Moves On

    Weird and wacky game yesterday afternoon, but the Gamecocks beat LSU, 15-4. Tonight, we're playing Miami at 7pmET - hopefully it won't be a good game. Hopefully, we'll blow it open in the first couple of innings and be able to cruise the rest of the game so I can actually enjoy it. Hopefully we won't have to come behind again, and hopefully we haven't used up all our runs for the series. Hopefully.
    Monday, June 21, 2004
    Mundane Monday, Part Two
    When we first started our email list, I would post things as "mundane" - with headers like "Mundane Monday - Yesterday's Sermon", or something like that. My thought then was that God was the Lord over the mundane things of life, or He wasn't Lord at all; that we would give credit and praise for the awesomeness of God and His work in our lives, but we'd forget to include Him in the "mundane" parts, actually thinking "we can handle these little bitty things on our own".
    Mundane Monday
  • Post Cards From Omaha -- Day Four :: Gamecocks work to bounce back from Saturday's opening loss
    The College World series continues for USC at 2pmET, and I'd better be in front of my laptop streaming this game. It's an elimination game, since we lost to Cal State Fullerton Saturday, but we've been there before. I like our chances, in a biased sort of way.

  • Mini Vacation
    My wife and kids are headed to the mountains for a little R&R. I've got to work, and we'll have a couple of trips together this summer before school starts back. They're old enough to be helpful for her up there, and there's lots to do. Her mom owns a condo on a golf resort in Lake Lure, and it's nice for them to get away for a few days each year like that. Nice for me, too, since I get a little peace & quiet around the house, and get to take in a few movies I wouldn't normally get to see (Dodgeball - I hope it's worth it).

  • The State | 06/21/2004 | Candidates argue over electability
    I'm probably going to vote for Jim DeMint in tomorrow's South Carolina U.S. Senate runoff for the Republican candidate - but the negative attack ad right out the chute still bothers me. Now that both camps are mostly into name-calling, I've taken a deeper look into the whole "free trade" vs. "fair trade" issue. I think I'm seeing more global incentive for DeMint's version of free trade, which I read to be letting the market decide what goes on, and then raise the standards and competitiveness around us locally if we want to create jobs and unplug the economy. Closing markets by enforcing "fair trade" might do more harm than good in the long run, and there's a subtle message sent that we can't compete so we might as well shut those markets out. That's the wrong message to send, like telling your child "you're slow, so let's tie everyone else down with extra weight to even the field" versus telling him "you can win, just try harder and work for it". The latter builds ethic and character, and the former caves in eventually to being whiney.
  • Sunday, June 20, 2004
    Father's Day
    It's good to be Daddy at my house. My wife is wonderful, and my kids try really hard to make sure I know they love me. I got a Starbucks travel mug with a collage of digital pics in the liner - very cute - and a home kit for my XM radio - woo hoo. I also got cards and hugs and tickling and more cards and a flag that says "Happy Father's Day", made in Sunday school this morning. I'm a blessed man.

    But as I looked around the congregation this morning, I asked this question: where was everyone? There were so many people just not there. I know of a few on vacation, and I'm sure some were probably dealing with sickness or other family issues. And I'm really not standing in judgment of anyone... at least, I don't think I am. It's just that as a father, I'm challenged to be all that and more to my kids and my wife. And it hurts me personally that there were dads missing, or moms who weren't there to be with their husbands, or kids showing up on their own with no parents coming to at least show support.

    I can't expect my kids to do any better than I'm willing to put forth effort in front of them. I fail, miserably and often, but it's not for lack of effort. What bothers me most is that if I can do it - just getting out of bed and being on time Sunday morning - than anyone can do it. Often, the people with the biggest smiles are living the most deceptive lives. And today, it just strikes me that they're passing that along to their kids.
    Saturday, June 19, 2004
    Saturday Schtuff
    Breaking News: My wife has started a blog - DramaMama. Give her props.

  • Yahoo! Sports - NCAA Baseball - Top catchers Powell, Suzuki meet in CWS
    The Gamecocks open against the Titans this afternoon in Omaha. Hopefully, it'll be a long boring 15-2 game, with USC putting it away in the first inning with a couple of grandslams. I can't take anymore comeback victories. And if it's a blowout, I can flip nack and forth to the U.S. Open coverage. Golf and baseball - perfect nap-taking spectator sports.

    I feel crappy - not just in mood (unkymood icon on right sidebar), but physically. There's a stomach virus thing going around the church, and I don't know if I got it or not. But I do know that I was awake 'til 2am last night, slept 'til 10am this morning, and I've got the body aches and nasty-bathroom-trips going on this morning (too much info, I know).

    So I'm going to take it easy today. It's already 85F and humid, so I'm not going to be doing the yardwork that's still really needed outside. Probably Monday evening, in the cool of the night; definitely before my wife and kids get back from their mini-vacation later in the week. I'm going to flip sports channels and sleep. Not hungry, but thanks for offering. And go Gamecocks.
    Photo Friday

    Friday, June 18, 2004
  • CNN Breaking News: Al Arabiya TV: Al Qaeda militants behead U.S. hostage Paul Johnson. CNN working to confirm.
    Dang. Dang dang dang dang dang. "Love your enemies"... all of them?
    Birthdays & Getting Old(er)
    I'm going to be turning 36 in July. Thirty-six, and I've only just begun. Longevity is no guarantee of wisdom, but getting older has its moments. As for birthdays, I get to update my wishlist @ Amazon, tell friends and family that giftcards are muy bien, and look forward to the cards my kids will write/color/draw for me. I find that I don't need that much in the way of "toys" anymore, but that I also like them and appreciate them a little more these days. Perhaps that's a notable factor in getting older - not needing much, but greater appreciation for what does come your way. At least, in those folks I look up to with humility, peace and real deep happiness, that's a part of who they are. The opposite probably happens too much of the time - crotchety and whiney old people, complaining about how this world's going to crap and the young whippersnappers don't realize how good they've got it.

    They're right. We don't. But we're the ones holding the keys to your "retirement villa". Be careful there.
    Love Your Enemies
    I've been reading and thinking, thinking and reading alot lately on the state of the union, where we are as a nation in the world today. USAmerica is divided within its borders, and it's at least as divided in public opinion around the world. It seems that there's not a whole lot of love to go around, probably starting with Christians who should know what it looks like and should know how to display it in a real and transforming way. I'm afraid to discuss political views, to raise real questions and question real perceptions around people who are ... well, just not asking the same things. Those discussions typically turn into a debate, where I try to explain myself, and the other party/parties try to explain where I'm wrong, misguided, and not thinking straight. It's humbling, I guess - maybe humiliating is the better word. I think deeply, and it's troubling that more people don't question the status quo or look for change beyond what's on the surface.

    I see a dissonance between our spiritual lives and our cultural lives. Spiritually, we're focused on our own relationship with God, and culturally, we're focused on everyone else's relationship to God, instead of spending some time and energy focused on our relationships with others. I see that it's easier to condemn others and ask mercy for ourselves, than calling for mercy for others and dropping our own sin and shortsightedness. I see that it's easier to adopt a Republican agenda that's at least giving lip-service to the hot-button litmus-test "Christian" issues of pro-life and pro-family ideals, than to question its morality on the economic and military choices of the past few years. I see that it's easier for me to point a finger, than for me to just love someone who's worth loving and worth being thought highly of. I'm so quick to stand up for truth, but I don't often stand up for love and mercy. And while we're pointing the finger, we don't usually realize that we (1) don't know everything in any given situation like God does, and that we're (2) probably partaking of something similar in our own lives. Our vehemence against something might be subconsciously exploding from our own inability to deal with that same issue in our own lives that's been rationalized or justified away... or that's just me.

    In "loving my enemies", and in seeking not to "judge lest I be judged", is it okay to just give everyone the benefit of the doubt and not let their sins, real or perceived, have an influence over the way I relate with them? In other words, can mercy and forgiveness be my first response, not my second response that would come only after I've said my piece and made my judgment?

    I am so quick to judge the motives and thought processes, or lack thereof, of others. And it bothers me to see that as others do it to me, it ticks me off. Their specks are aggravating my log.
    Thursday, June 17, 2004
    Is this a hoax, a pre-publicity stunt for I, ROBOT - or an ad for Mini Cooper? Hmmmmm...
    Don't Panic
    I'm listening to the briefing this morning from the 9/11 Commission. Wow, when it's all compressed into a few minutes on a limited timeline, it sounds like so much happened, including alot of mistakes, misinterpretations of data, and false presuppositions. The main thing we probably had wrong was the false security of thinking we had it under control. One of the statements just mad had something to do with which planes had been hijacked, which ones had been lost, which ones were still legitimate non-hijacked flights. One plane circled back and landed safely in Cleveland - I can't imagine being someone who just found out that fighters had been tailing us to make sure we were not a missile, and who would've shot down my flight on orders from his superiors.

    No blame or finger-pointing from me. I make my share of mistakes, too, and I think anyone would agree that the events of that day did much to show us that we did not have the proper training, information or systems in place to handle this kind of attack. There's also word that the same things were supposed to have happened over the west coast. I can only imagine how fast this could've gotten much much worse.

    All of this took place inside of a window of about an hour and fifty-five minutes. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, I think our biggest problem might've been a mistaken idea about the nature of man. There's no way someone would slam a huge passenger jet into a huge business building. There's no way someone would want to kill so many innocent people so violently and so viciously. There's no way they would ever intend to do so much damage so quickly, and there's no way that even if they did, that it would be that bad. But when the first plane hit its target, and then the first tower fell to the ground, all of us collectively discovered that "sin is exceedingly sinful", and that man is capable of the most terrible atrocities, and capable of the most blind mistakes.

    In Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, the cover of the guide has these words: "DON'T PANIC". For me, when I recognize that the world and the universe is much bigger, more dangerous and much more off-kilter than previously understood, it's good to grab onto the thought, "DON'T PANIC". As screwed up as much of this is, there's always hope that tomorrow will be better. Just... don't panic.

    Can I get that on my bible cover?
    Wednesday, June 16, 2004
    Coffee Quiz
    You're a Cappucinno.
    You're a Cappicinno!

    What Kind of Coffee are You?
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    S.C. Politics: "It's The Economy, Stupid"
    That line was uttered so many years ago, and it's true today: for the two men running for the Republican spot on the ticket for US Senator from South Carolina, their only real difference is in the area of trade. I'm collecting some links and headlines found in my own google search, making up my mind and thinking for myself, thankyouverymuch.
  • GreenvilleOnline.com - Beasley trade plan mixes domestic incentives, foreign crackdown
  • David Beasley on the Issues - Free Trade
  • David Beasley for U.S. Senate - Beasley Unveils Economic Security Plan
  • The State | 04/25/2004 | Beasley slammed for trade flip-flop
  • WIStv.com Columbia, SC: SC Votes: Ravenel endorses DeMint; Beasley hits campaign trail
  • Charlotte Observer: Test for free trade
  • The Beaufort Gazette: Free trade surfaces as election issue
  • Ramesh Ponnuru on South Carolina & Election 2004 & Trade
    Gmail, Anyone?
    I've got a few Gmail invitations - five of 'em, first come first serve. After that, I'll take 'em to eBay - woo hoo.

    UPDATE: four invites left; still waiting to see if I need to post these to eBay and what they're offering. Wow, go here - looks like $7, or up to $16, to secure your email name here at the beginning of the system.

    UPDATE2: One more left... I really should consider eBay.......

    UPDATE3: Out of invites, but they'll do them again soon, I'm sure. My advice: don't pay for something that'll be free.
    Good Friends
    I've got a friend going through a difficult time in his life. I haven't blogged about it much - don't want to gossip, don't want to air his laundry, don't want to make a specatacle of what's a really deep and hurtful twist, don't want to leave details around when we might have mutual friends/readers here. I've been emailing with him, back and forth, hopefully looking ahead to being able to share conversationally over a macchiato somewhere. What I'm finding is that I've been sharing what I would consider some of my best writing in a long while, and I can't blog it because it's too personal.

    I write for me in this blog, and while I appreciate being read by others, I really write what I want to read, linking to what I'll want to re-visit, covering topics that I want to ponder and ponder again. I'll change names and places, or I'll write in parables to hide what I'm really thinking/doing - but by and large, I'm pretty self-centered when it comes to writing in this space. Or at least self-directed.

    That sounds selfish, but right now I'm really seeing a pattern in the letter writing that should help my writing in general, and hopefully that also helps relationally in sharing screen text. It's all about taking time. I re-read everything I send to him, four or five times, making sure I've chosen the right words, the right phrases, the right movie references or jokes to make the right point and lead us towards some kind of mutual resolution and moving-on gameplan. It takes time to write well, doesn't it? Most of the time, I just start typing and blogging, not taking the time to spellcheck - much less taking the time to make sure what I'm trying to say is worth saying and worth saying well.

    So my interaction with my good friend is stretching me as a writer, and probably stretching me as a good friend. Good relationships are like that: both/all participants are encouraged and challenged by the other/s. I don't have all the answers, and often don't have any answers. Even as I try to give him every benefit of every doubt, I still trust that he's paying attention, and that I'm trying my best to hear his heart in the exchange. It's not just about what I can give to him in terms of closure, healing and forgiveness, but what he's also bringing to the table in terms of patience, reasoning and just getting on with life. Good friends give, and receive, naturally.
    Tuesday, June 15, 2004
    Where Would Jesus Go To School?
  • The State | 06/15/2004 | Southern Baptist proposal favors home, church schools
    This is a place where someone else in the SBC is really misguided: "[E. Ray Moore] has written and spoken extensively in recent years about how increasingly secular public schools are harmful for Christian children because they push a secular worldview and deny Christians their rights to express their religious beliefs."

    Don't get me started. If you're of the mind that public schools will be so strong that you won't be able to teach your own children right from wrong and solid principles of godly living, then this might be the way to go. I prefer my kids to be a city on a hill, not hidden under a bushel but shining for everyone to see, for better or for worse. But that's just me.
    How Would Jesus Vote?
    Land: House 'Safe Harbor' proposal infringes on free speech - (BP)This is one area where someone in a position of influence in the mainline denominations might actually have it "right". By allowing the government to have any fingers at all in the work of the ministry of the church is a bad precedent. At the same time, in my own subversive thinking, allowing pulpits to tell folks to vote for this candidate or another is equally wrong.

    While I don't understand the uproar over handing out voting record reports (the same cards that would paint some candidate in a bad light in one arena would also lift that candidate up in another arena, so it's as fair as we have room for), I have the same problem Dr. Land mentions above. Partisan politics has no place in the church, beyond the teaching of a church and its leaders to train people to make their own decisions intelligently and with integrity. If both parties (or all parties) can be heard, maybe that would be a good thing. While I need to be able to make decisions based solidly in my faith, I need more the tools to make those decisions well. Having someone else legalistically make those decisions for me isn't an answer.

    [inspired by Tony Campolo's interview with Al Franken on The O'Franken Factor, Monday 06/14 - don't know if there will be an archive of the audio available or not]
    Monday, June 14, 2004
    Philip K. Dick - Exclusive Content - The Acts of Paul.

    Too bad this wasn't a novel. I'd read it.
    "One Nation, Under God"
    CNN.com - Court dismisses Pledge case - Jun 14, 2004Now that it's "okay" to recite the pledge, it's high time we actually started living out what it might mean to be "one nation, under God". I'm more appalled that we don't live it out, more than the threat to not be able to say it.
    I Hate Mondays
    Well, that's not entirely true. But it was one of the best lines Jim Davis ever developed for Garfield over the years. I used to be a huge Garfield fan - had a few of the books, read it every day as it started out, and only lost interest when I discovered that Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side were way funnier. We went to see Garfield: The Movie this weekend - not bad, fun enough for the family to enjoy. If it's got some good DVD extras it'll be worth owning.

    It's rainy here today, at least overcast and damp so far this morning. So that'll keep temperatures down, while hopefully not pulling down attitude. There's alot that needs to be done this week before one of my co-workers goes on vacation Thursday, so it'll be fun and hectic around the workplace. I'm also trying to find a book to read - don't really want to buy anything new, so I'm scouring my shelves for books I started and never persevered to finish (which is a major percentage of the allotted bookspace anyway). And after the rain stops a little, I've got to get to the yardwork that's been piling up the past two weeks - mowing and clearing the driveway, woo hoo. That's my week - now here's what's happening in your neck of the woods (my apologies to Al Roker).
    USC Baseball Going To Omaha
    The State | 06/14/2004 | A rite of June

    Good game yesterday afternoon, and I'm really glad the Gamecocks puled it out. Now it's on to the College World Series - and hopefully the momentum will carry into Omaha and give some oomph to USC's chances at a national title.
    Sunday, June 13, 2004
    10 Reasons Why Your Church Sucks
    A Discussion List from Ginkworld.net:This is a list provided at ginkworld.net, and anyone who's paid attention to John over the years knows that he's as much a seeker as anyone else, and that he's not afraid to tell it like it is. This is a good list, one to which we sould pay attention to as individuals first, then as the church and the community of Christ in this world.
    Soggy Obedience
    It's been raining off an on here for the last twenty hours or so. After building to about 95F yesterday, the skies opened and started dumping. We've needed it, and now I'm just hoping it will keep raining a little more today - keep the temperatures down, the humidity down, the breezes blowing for my afternoon nap. Just put on a pot of coffee. I need to shower, get the kids up, help get the family ready for church. But I really enjoy this time of quiet and rest right before the thunder of little feet on the stairs signals the end.

    We're going to be talking about OBEDIENCE and ADJUSTING OUR LIVES this morning in Bible study. When we really seek to follow God's will, and we want to look at what He's already doing so we can join Him in His work, that's the time to adjust and to obey, no matter what. When God reveals Himself, it's nearly always an invitation to join Him. Our biggest downfall is that usually, we rationalize away what's going on, and we don't make adjustments to our lives that would reflect willing and obedient hearts.

    Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23 NIV)

    When we use a statement like that - "if you loved me, you'd do this" - it's a manipulative situation. But with Jesus, it's a promise: "If you love Me, you'll find yourself obeying Me; you'll find the strength and courage to do as called, because you love me and want to join me." How many of us "love Jesus", but we don't obey? And yet, the only way to really find out that His promises are true amd that He will do as He has said is to obey, to follow Him and find out that His ways are higher, but that He's also prepared us and empowered us to do whatever He's calling us to in life.
    S.C. Politics - "Foul"
  • AP Wire | 06/12/2004 | Beasley calls foul on DeMint's "flip-flopper" ad

    In the article above, when DeMint was sought for comment, his campaign director, "Terry Sullivan, didn't let up. He said Beasley is "consistently inconsistent" and won a Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum for a 'courageous stand' on 'both sides of the issue' of the Confederate flag."

    I found this from the JFK Profiles in Courage website: "The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounted the stories of eight U.S. Senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions." That fits well with my recollection of events. Beasley had taken the popular conservative stance of keeping the Confederate Flag on top of the State House. His "flip flop" was not about gaining votes - the opposite happened, because he lost his constituency by doing what was right, changing his mind, and calling for the flag's removal. He was not re-elected as governor.
  • Saturday, June 12, 2004
    Finished UPRISING
    I finished reading Uprising by Erwin R. McManus this week. Very good, very challenging, very insightful - it kicked my proverbial hiney all around the proverbial room. This year's PromiseKeepers theme is borrowed from this book, and I'm praying that after our conference in Atlanta, the men will come back and lead their families through this book as our Sunday morning LifeTRAINING book study in August and September.
    S.C. Politics
    After last week's primaries, there will be runoffs for those races that did not get majority winners. One of those races is for the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Fritz Hollings. In that race, the runoff is between former Governor David Beasley and U.S. Congressman Jim DeMint.

    Did I mention that I hate politics?

    In the primary, I voted for DeMint. Of the six candidates on the Republican ticket, he seemed to be the one talking about the issues: not trying to hit the right religious right buttons with the Pledge of Allegiance and same-sex marriage, but addressing real issues like trade, anti-terrorism, building the economy. His only "downside" for me was an A-rating from the NRA (that can't be good, can it?), but I appreciated that there hadn't been any mudslinging against any of the other candidates. It had been a clean race, and I felt DeMint had been the "cleanest" of the participants. I like Beasley, but he had pushed those "vote for me because I'm Republican" buttons, so I went the other way.

    I might be voting for Beasley in the runoff. I caught my first "negative" ad this morning, and I'm really perturbed that the perceived-best way to make your idea look good is to belittle the other guy's idea. DeMint has a new commercial calling Beasley a flip-flopper on "free trade" - "wishy-washy - no, flip-flopper - no, wishy-washy", as two old men argue in front of the mercantile. There's no talk about "free trade" versus "protectionism", no explanation of why he believes one way and his opponent believes another.

    I feel like this: if your idea is worth its salt, it'll win out in the marketplace of public opinion. If you can explain what you mean, explain its shortcomings and its pluses, you'll be able to "win" if the idea itself is sound and pragmatic. But having to demonize the opposing view shows me - this is just me, and maybe I'm wrong - that you don't think your idea is all that good, is not good enough on the merits of its own strength, and probably not worth voting for in the first place. If the best thing you can say is, "my idea is different and better than his lousy idea", and that's all - you're not behind that thing like you should be. And even if it's the best idea going, you're not the one to pursue it.

    So I might vote for Beasley... or I might not. I'll be the lousy flip-flopper, if that means doing my best to vote with some portion of my integrity intact.
    Friday, June 11, 2004
    Today's Topic: JOURNEY

    Separation of Church & State
    For me, this catch-phrase has come to be meaningless by it's overuse. Let me explain. When someone is conservative and uses the phrase "separation of church and state", it's with a negative you-don't-understand-what-the-Constitution-really-says kind of fascination. There's more of an emphasis on not allowing the government to interfere with religious matters, because that's the assumed intention of the First Amendment:If the phrase is used by someone of a more liberal slant, it tends to mean that religion should not have an influence on affairs of state, that the "separation of church and state" means that government doesn't have to support religion and should not be influenced by religious mindsets. It actually assumes that sanctioning any religious activity or emphasis is wrong, and that religious superstition can be relegated to the fringe of the culture where it won't effect the rest of the population.

    Both sides are probably wrong. As usual, there is another, deeper and more meaningful way to look at this, at least from what I can figure. A third option is that we are not to sell out our Christianity to any political agenda. While our kingdom-values should drive us and prompt us in decision making, they should not be co-opted or manipulated for political or socio-economic gain.

    I'm sure I've got more to say, but there's probably more out there to be said, too. Thanks for reading this far, and if you have, you've probably got your own thoughts on the subject. Don't hold back - I'm looking for enlightenment.
    What's Holding Us Back?
    I'm sitting here at my desk, my cubicle in the corporate building that's been my workplace for fourteen years. I'm listening to a sermon on 2 Timothy 2, being challenged to live with endurance. Last night, I was reading that my endurance and perseverance are necessary in order to be "complete" in this life. I have a friend going through divorce, and another friend who's excited about following hard after God. My wife wants to be challenged to go deeper in Christ, and other folks want nothing to do with a more personal perspective on the Almighty. President Reagan is being honored and memorialized in the Capitol Rotunda, and others are returning from the battlefields with very little notice or fanfare. People are getting offended over the most incredibly small things, while others are somehow able to forgive the biggest betrayals and move on in life.

    Life goes on, and on and on - doesn't it? And in the midst of it, we avoid suffering. We take the easier way, we vote for the lesser of two evils, we choose the "open door" and call it the Will of God. It's like my "opinionated" post earlier: we think we've got it all figured out, but nothing changes, nothing gets better and nothing ever works out the way we'd hoped. And I'm the most optimistic & hopeful person I know.

    There's something about perseverance, choosing the right way over the easy way, enduring through hardship instead of always avoiding struggle - that kind of mindset needs to set in.

    Thursday, June 10, 2004
    Voice Mail
    Our home phone number is one digit off from a national hearing aid foundation/company. Occasionally, we get phone calls from people who can't hear, looking for information on their hearing aids. Most of the time, we get their voice mails: they can't hear the message, I'm assuming, that says who we are. Here's a message left for us this morning:I want to call back and say, "Sir, you're supposed to be hearing those beeps throughout the day. They're connected to your pacemaker, so if you're only hearing one or two beeps per day, we suggest that you quickly call your cardiologist. If that's not the problem, it's probably the batteries. Thanks for calling."
    Too Many Opinions...
    I. am. tired. of. opinionated. Christians.

    I don't have a monopoly on truth, but from what I read in the Bible, we can know Truth. Jesus is Truth, and I don't have to add the descriptor "absolute" in front of it to know it's true, to know He is true. My opinions aren't worth diddly.

    I am now listening to a radio talking head tell me that I have a moral obligation to confront evil as I see it. For him, that means that I will vote to re-elect the President. For another talk show host on another, competing network, my moral obligation would be to clean house and vote in the Democrats. I understand why they are ideologues and are so concerned - mostly, it's bad theology. And we as Christians in this country just eat it up.

    Wouldn't that be something? What if we're all able to boil down all the divisiveness and angst in this country to "bad theology" - an improper view of God? Who needs politics if we could finally get a real, personal and invasive perspective on who God is and what He's about? Meanwhile, Christians get into bed with conservative politicians, hoping to advance their view of a Christian agenda. Or, other Christians sell their souls to the liberal political machine, hoping to advance their view of a kingdom agenda.

    Perhaps we lack imagination. Just my opinion.
    Wednesday, June 09, 2004
    Eating Rocks
    We cannot be tested without being tempted. God longs for our victory; Satan plots our defeat. The evil one also knows that the place of our greatest vulnerability is the vacuum created between our need and God's provision. He is keenly aware that God fully intends to supply our every need through Christ Jesus. His best strategy is to invite us to choose another way before God meets us in the midst of our test. Satan knows when we're hungry that God intends to bring us bread. Yet he also knows that if we lack perseverance, he can convince us to settle for something less. He tried to convince Jesus to turn stones into bread. With us he just tries to convince us to eat rocks instead.
    - Uprising: A Revolution Of The Soul, Erwin R. McManus, pp. 211-212

    It's beautiful here. Overcast, rainy & damp, slight breeze - not sunny at all, but not hot and muggy either. This would be the perfect day to sit at home in the playroom, kick back in my humungoid recliner, open a few of the windows to catch that breeze, and read the afternoon away. But I can't, since my workplace likes to have me work in return for my bi-weekly paycheck.

    I've had a few things on my mind lately: relationships, repentance, politics, church culture, my own growth and maturity or lack thereof. Sometimes I wonder why I think the way I do, why I dwell on things that no one else considers important. I talk with my wife, and I'm trying to encourage her to think deeply about things, to consider other possibilities of life and stuff. But I don't know if I want her to necessarily "think like me". There's areas where I'm sure I'm probably wrong, and many areas where I'm not completely confident of my own mental processes, and I don't know if I want to pass that stuff on entirely. I guess I want to build into people the ability to think for yourself, the enjoyment of thinking for yourself, but without any baggage I might still be bringing to the table.

    I don't feel "down"; not really depressed, just burdened and heavy for some of the people in my life, some of their decisions, some of their unseen needs. And I don't want to stand in judgment over anyone, especially since I have so many logs of my own to deal with. So I'm just feeling kind of heavy, trying to be smart about confrontation, and praying & loving so that anything I say will be honest and encouraging instead of my usual sarcastic/cynical approach to life, the universe and everything.

    Pray for me. Pray with me. And enjoy the day.
    Tuesday, June 08, 2004
    Kerry Pays Respects
    CNN.com - Kerry joins thousands to view Reagan casket - Jun 8, 2004

    Not making me vote for him, but I do respect that he's done the right thing here.
    Politics & Funerals
    ... but other than that, he was a nice guy.... right?
    Obedience & Servanthood
    You know, everyone Jesus served was "less" than him. No matter how highly He might've thought of Himself - and He didn't, since He walked in real humility, but let's pretend - He just didn't hold people's inferiority against them.No one likes to talk about obedience, and when we do, it's watered down with the notion that we're not-perfect-just-forgiven. But what we're missing is that we're not submitted to God, who's infinitely above what we might think of ourselves, and as a consequence we're not submitted to each other - and others are almost always inferior to our prideful selves.

    We don't submit to each other, because those around us are inferior to our own egos. Or, we submit in unhealthy ways, out of fear or abuse or bondage. and we don't submit to God, thinking that He understands that we're not perfect and that He forgives us when we're stubborn. The news is that He does forgive, but He also graces the change, giving us the ability to submit in Christ to God and to those "over" us - and to those in need.

    We're to be servants. Period. And that means that we're to be submissive. To each other (Ephesians 5:15-21). Period.
    Primary Day in S.C.
    I'm going to vote this morning. I'll walk up to the people I see every election year, sign in by my name, take my ballot to one of the punch boxes, and vote - only for those candidates who have inspired me to vote for them.

    I mean it. And if I cast an empty ballot, or I cast a ballot with some slots un-poked, so be it. That's my vote.
    Monday, June 07, 2004
    Remembering the President - Reprise
    Flipping channels on my normal AM and satellite XM dial today at lunch, and I have to send props to Air America's Al Franken. The conservative pundits are too syrupy or are using this event to harangue against the liberals, and the other left-leaning voices are refusing to acknowledge his positives. There's not alot of respect nor mourning on either side. I don't mind bringing up the differences and problems of the Reagan presidency, but meanness is not called for when respect and honor and charm among individuals was such a huge part of who he was. But Al Franken's not stooping, at least in my opinion, to belittling his memory. He's showing respect and honoring who he was as a man, while not taking away from where he really disagreed politically. Even if you found yourself against him, his charm made you comfortable. I think Franken put it this way on the air today: "He knew you disagreed with him, but you knew he didn't take it personally."
    Growing Together
    I stayed up too late last night, and it's all my wife's fault. Not that that's a bad thing - but as my mind was re-engaging, hers was whirring down for the night. We talked a little about growing deeper, getting more intentional, living less superficial lives. I tend to think too much, something that's often mistaken for "depth" - but at times it helps to really meditate on something in order for it to become a part of me and not just "something I know". I want to help her grow in that, too - meditating on a topic, a scripture passage, a charge from the sermon, in order to be imaginative and obedient to what it's revealing about what God's up to.

    My idea: read a "non-fiction" book that will stretch your mind if you let it. The one I've picked out, STRONGHOLD OF GOD by Francis Frangipane, is really good, really deep and really short. I'm asking her to read a chapter a day, to think about that chapter through the day, and then when the next day's reading time comes, try to think about what the previous chapter said before moving on to the next. I've found that meditating on something like that, instead of hurriedly going through a book or devotional, is that best way for me to process something and retain it in a way that actually changes and renews my mind/will/emotions.

    Most of us hear a sermon, and it doesn't impact our lives because we don't meditate on what the pastor said, on what the message revealed about God, on what the challenge was and how it's supposed to impact and transform our lives. We hear, but we don't intend to obey - and we lose it. Happens to me still, but when something actually takes root and grows... there's a freedom in that, when real change happens.

    I need to find her that book, though. Might be at home somewhere, but probably at church (she's already looked through the bookcases in the house). That book opened me up to recognizing how my own through patterns, developed over time, were hindering the way I was trying to serve God. But then, getting rid of old patterns required (and still requires ongoing) new strongholds to be built. Foundationally, it's all Jesus. Everything else can be deconstructed and reconstructed to suit as God reveals Himself in the process.

    It's really good, this "growing together". We have been all along, but it was good over the weekend to be challenged to "go deeper" together, too. Too many marriages don't have that. With all the struggles and all the other things we deal with in our married lives, I'm glad this one can come to the surface from time to time to challenge us both in Christ.

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