Saturday, December 31, 2005
Saturday. New Year's Eve. 11:15 A.M.
I'm watching The West Wing - Season 4, Episode 4 - The Red Mass.
Josh and Amy are having an argument (surprise!) in the coffee room outside the Stackhouse meeting. He gets up from his chair to walk over to her chair, and
is that?- ..... could it be?.... - IS THAT HIS OPEN FLY? Seriously?
I kept waiting for it to become part of the scene, like she was going to patronize him for being all serious, and then zip it up for him or something.
Somebody back me up on this... or set me straight....
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Sunday, December 25, 2005
It's 2 a.m. on Christmas morning 2005, and I'm still up. In my apartment in Houston all by myself. There won't be any present-opening or family for me until tomorrow night, but I wouldn't exactly call myself lonely on Christmas. I was kind of thinking about Mary and Joseph, and how they must have been feeling on this night 2000 or so years ago. When you think about it - this night probably sucked big-time for them. At church tonight John Jackson told me he talked to his friend who actually lives in Israel, in the Golan Heights, today. They are expecting rain and snow.
A white Christmas. In Israel.
Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "no room for them in the inn".
I read a couple of days ago on Craig's blog, and Myles' blog about how so much of the context of that first Christmas was not joy, and Who-bilation, but instead a rather lot of mourning. It's a great point. Like Myles says:
- Anna is noted as being widow.
- Simeon mentions his impending death in the same breath as his seeing Jesus.
- Mary's heart is promised to be pierced with the metaphorical sword of grief.
- The babies of Bethlehem are all slaughtered at Jesus birth.
- Joseph contemplates divorce before he is even married.
Not to mention the fact that
- Between Caesar and Herod, the Jews in the Galilee region where Jesus grew up were probably under about 80-90% taxation.
- Just to feed their families, many of them had to sell the family land that had been alotted them by God when Joshua brought them into the land, 20-25 generations ago. They had to hire themselves out as day-laborers, and acquire skills that could travel where the work was. We see that Joseph was evidently a carpenter, and when Augustus decided to count, he had to go back to Bethlehem, where his family was from. Why wasn't he living on the family land?
- A strange star was seen in 17 B.C., and witnesses claimed it was the first Caesar, Julius, ascending to the right hand of the father, Zeus. Julius' son, Octavian (aka - Augustus), claimed that if his father was god, he was the son of god, and should be worshiped so. He even went so far as to circulate the phrases "There is no other name by which men can be saved than Caesar Augustus", and "Caesar is Lord" in the population, and if you dared to deny it, he'd kill you.
- Caesar inaugurated a 10-day celebration of his birth called "The Advent of Caesar Augustus".
- Rome also slaughtered thousands of people at a time using an award-winning new invention for torture - crucifixion.
- Herod was probably the richest man who has ever lived. He taxed the Jewish working poor and used their income to build hot tubs on Masada, fresh water swimming pools surrounded by salt water, the worlds largest, most beautiful port city - Caesarea (a world class kiss-ass, that's what he was), statues of Caesar, and roads, stadiums, aqueducts, NOT in Israel. He even single-handedly funded the Olympic games (Coca-who? Master-what?).
- The rich were getting richer, and the poor were getting poorer. The "haves" were having more, and the "have-nots" were having less and less.
Joyful and triumphant this story ain't. There was a deep sense of despair and fatalism among the Jews of the day.
"God, if you're there, and you're so good, and we're your people - is Herod always going to be on the throne? And is Caesar always going to rule? And why do you seem so far off? And why haven't we heard from you in so many years."
But all of a sudden. Out of the blue. After years of silence. The Angel of the Lord appears to a Jr. High girl whose boyfriend is flaky to say the least.
Mary's Magnificat is, according to Thomas Cahill, "The most muscular poem in all of ancient literature". When she finds out a new king is coming on the scene via herself, courtesy of the Spirit of God, she grits her teeth, balls up her fist, and has this to say about Herod, Augustus, taxation, and a God who has seemed far off:
I'm bursting with God-news;Cahill says, "No one knows it yet - but the poor, the hungry, and the humiliated have won, and this unknown 14 year old is their unexpected representative."
I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened--
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It's exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
Tonight in Baton Rouge they lit bonfires on the levee to light the way for Santa Claus. If you think that waiting on Santa Claus has any remote meaning to what Christmas is about, you haven't been told the story correctly.
Now its almost 3 a.m. and I'm wondering what time the shepherds showed up.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Georgia girls are pretty,
Vandy girls are smart,
But it takes an LSU girl
to win a fellow's heart!
Tennessee girls are easy,
Florida girls have flow,
But when you want the best of the best,
LSU is where you go!
Bama girls are wild,
Auburn girls are fun,
But LSU girls are TIGER girls,
they are #1!
Any man who reads this,
he probably already knows.
If he has an LSU girl,
he should never let her go!
Monday, December 19, 2005
Fair warning. If, by some unlucky circumstance, you should happen to click there, I defy you to NOT spend the whole rest of your ENTIRE DAY there. I daresay it cannot be done.
This is an even greater waste of time than the freaky woman falling through the bubbles (but you couldn't resist clicking there either, could you?). You heard it here first. Post your high scores. Mine are 593, 589, 587.
**Edited to add** Don't bother clicking the link to the freaky woman falling through the bubbles. She's not there anymore, and frankly what is there is liable to be quite disturbing to anyone desiring a little lighthearted fun. It is, as they say, NSFW. Although, some of you would probably be hard-pressed not to spend your entire day there.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
And what kind of youth minister wears himself the heck out dancing at it, so that he can hardly get out of bed, much less walk, the next day?
Some messed up stuff going on in H-town.
Damn you Sadie Hawkins!
Damn you and your infernal dancing, reversal of roles, adam's apple and eventual soreness!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Tonight I had coffee with perhaps the most fascinating individual I've ever met. Half Syrian, half American, studying international law at the University of Exeter in the UK. Speaks fluent Arabic. Wants to be a missionary to North Africa and the Middle East. Actually uttered the phrase "masturbating porno freak" in my office this afternoon. Listens to The Smiths and loves A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.
I only write this to mark the occasion, in case six months down the road I either hate her or marry her.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Forgive me for being all serious again, but how am I ever going to get linked by all the cool Emergent blogs if I only post iPod memes and song lyrics all the time? LOL. Seriously though, to continue the thought about church that I started a couple of posts ago, I submit for your approval, a super-cool article that was posted at (of all places) Relevantmagazine.com today. When they say Relevant, they ain't kiddin'. Check out the restaurant they mention in it. Here's the text, and the link:
I Am The Church
by Trinity Jordan
The very thought of the word “church” makes me want to rollover and go back to bed. For the last five years church just hasn’t felt right. Through my teenage years and into my twenties, church was almost always publicized as my participation on a Sunday morning at a specific building. I am pretty sure that if you ask anyone what church means to them, they would describe the place they go on Sundays—the religious organization that they attend. I don’t know who came up with this idea first, but it seems because all of us view church as a place—somewhere we go on Sunday morning—we have focused our attention on managing the church into an efficient, smiling, friendly, lively, bright, fun, social atmosphere.
But what if church wasn’t what you thought?
What if church was meant to be something entirely different than what it looks like today? Could it be that we have lost the concept of what it means to be the church rather than go to church?
There is a restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City that I have eaten at a couple of times. It looks like any downtown deli, but when you walk in the menu isn’t anywhere to be found. You have to ask what is available that day and you pay what you think the food is worth. The people serving the food don’t even look like they work there, because they don’t. They are literally working to pay for their meal. When you are finished you clean your dishes and put them in a tray for the dishwasher. The ambiance is amazing, it is totally decorated with art that was painted or drawn by the people who eat there and the music playing throughout the place is original music from, yet again, the regulars.
I talked to the owner one day as I was leaving and asked her, “Why do a restaurant like this? It doesn’t seem like good business?” She replied, “This place isn’t about making money, yes, money comes in, but this place is about community and feeding people. Really, this place is not the restaurant; this place is everyone that walks through that door, whether only one person ever comes in or a hundred. I hope that everyone sees this restaurant as theirs.”
I looked around after she said that and realized that everyone in the restaurant, including me, felt like we could personalize the place, because we were completely comfortable with the environment. We felt like we belonged. She was right; this place was more the people than anything else.
If you look at the word “church” in the Bible, it’s interesting that it is never used to describe a building or an organization. The word “church” is always used to refer to a gathering, crowd, group, or an assembly of people who believed in this Messiah Jesus. It was a deep-seated community with a purpose.
I was in Amsterdam, Netherlands last December and as I was riding around the city, I noticed banners and signs with the slogan “I AMsterdam.” My friend Steve, a missionary to Amsterdam, told me this slogan was the new motto of the city, somewhat like the I Love New York tagline. Amsterdam wanted to redefine the image of the city by showing the world that Amsterdam was a diverse melting pot of people, each one of them making Amsterdam unique, interesting and complete. The leaders of Amsterdam wanted to make a point that their city was not limited to political and economic boundaries, but more importantly, Amsterdam is the people who call the city home.
I sometimes wonder if we have confused our identity of being the church with the concept of an organization. The gathering of believers often times has morphed into a well-oiled business machine instead of a living, breathing body. Organization must exist to some degree, but I wonder when the body of Christ is going to wake-up, be alive and on the move rather than organize itself to death? I’m convinced we must gather together but the reality is—even when we are not physically together, we are still the body of Christ. When are we going to see church as what we are doing on Mondays as opposed to where we meet on Sunday mornings? Is it possible that places like Amsterdam and a restaurant in Salt Lake City are doing a better job of being community than many churches?
Can anyone be a part of the church? When I consider that Christ called anyone to join Him, it makes me want to rethink the traditional idea of church from the ground up. In the calling of Christ there is a sense of inclusiveness. You, me, that guy smoking the cigarette at the bus stop, if he wants in; he’s in—we are the church. To often our theology does not match our practice.
There is no doubt that through the centuries, liturgy and ministry practice have adapted to fit modern times. All of our gatherings will look different depending on the culture, but one thing is certain, the church is not a building or an organization. We are the church. You are the church. I am the church.
And anyone is welcome.
So there you have it. Those of you that don't care about this stuff can just walk on by... but if you read, I'd love to hear what you think.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
You always knew your iPod was convenient, awesome, and fun... but did you know how intuitive and prophetic it could be? Read on...
Unless otherwise noted, songs are listed [Title], [Artist], [Album].
How many songs: 2600
Sort by song title:
First song: 'Til The Day I Die, Third Day, Wire
Last song: Zzyzx Scarecrow, Stavesacre, Absolutes
Sort by time:
Shortest Song: Pull In Town, Kip Dynamite, Napoleon Dynamite Soundtrack - 3 sec
Longest Song: Providence, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, f# a# oo - 29:02
Sort by album:
First Song: Blackened, Metallica, ...And Justice For All
Last Song: Youth Gone Wild, Skid Row, Youth Gone Wild
Sort by artist:
First Song: California Love, 2Pac/Dr. Dre
Last Song: Bust A Move, Young MC, Non-Stop
Sort by date added:
First Song: Where I Began, Caedmon's Call, 40 Acres
Last Song: Collide, Howie Day, Stop All The World Now (Special Edition)
Top five most-played songs:
(Not wholly accurate because I had to reload my iTunes and iPod a few weeks ago when they set my computer up at the new job.)
1. Baby It's Cold Outside, Leon Redbone/ Zooey Deschanel, Elf Soundtrack
2. You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch, Tennessee Ernie Ford, A Classic Cartoon Christmas
3. Lewis Boogie Blues, Waylon Malloy Payne, Walk The Line Soundtrack
4. I'll Be Home For Christmas, The Beach Boys
5. The Man With All The Toys, The Beach Boys
First song that comes up on shuffle:
Slide Rule, Die Happy, Die Happy
Search, how many songs come up?
Shuffle and Ask:
What do you think of me, iTunes?
Must Get Out, Maroon 5, Songs About Jane
(I will offer no commentary whatsoever on this selection. Except to say that I will offer no commentary.)
Will I have a happy life?
Psychedelic Super Jesus, Bride, Snakes In The Playground
What do my friends really think of me?
The Meaning Of It All, Plankeye, Simply Survival
(It should be pointed out that I have absolutely no idea how Plankeye got into my library.)
Do people secretly lust after me?
All Over Me/ Do Not, The Benjamin Gate/John Reuben, Smash-Ups
What should I do with my life?
Words, The Monkees, Missing Links Vol. 2
Why must life be so full of pain?
The Rest Is Up To You, Relient K, The Anatomy Of The Tongue In Cheek
Will I ever have children?
Acquiesce, Stavesacre, Absolutes
Will I die happy?
Dogma, Marilyn Manson, Portrait Of An American Family
(You don't know how I prayed that one of my 17 songs by Die Happy would come up.)
Can you give me some advice?
I Go Blind, Hootie And The Blowfish, Scattered, Smothered, And Covered
What do you think happiness is?
Bookends, Deliverance, Camelot-In-Smithereens
What's my fetish?
Learn To Fly, Foo Fighters, There Is Nothing Left To Lose
Am I a complete freak?
Last Daze, Petra, Beyond Belief
Okay so - remember what I said about this being all, like, intuitive and prophetic? Forget all that. That's crap. I just copied and pasted that anyway.
At lunch, Tommy and Ty decided to go to this little Chinese Cafe right over next door to the church. I had to stay around a couple of minutes and do a thing, but when I was done, I was going to catch up with them. They went in Tommy's truck, but it's not that far, so I decided to walk.
I can't remember the last time I just walked.
I get so busy, and there are so many exciting things to do indoors. DVR, DSL, PS2, Digital Cable. I hardly even spend any time outside anymore. I remember when I was a kid, that my after-school time consisted of catching crawfish in the ditch in front of my house, or riding bikes to nowhere in particular with the other kids, playing baseball with a tennis ball and one base, or playing this game I invented in the front yard, where the object was to trip people and step on their toes. I love that game. Even if you lost - you fell down in the grass.
Today was such a pretty day, sunny and a little overcast and neither hot nor cold. I knew I was going to eat well, so the walk would do me good in advance (even though it's hardly far enough). Why walk when I could have just as easily driven? I guess that's exactly why. It's just as easy to drive. They are the same trouble. Only - walking is more enjoyable. And better for you. And cheaper. So I walked.
But even as I walked in the pretty day, I realized something else. I was walking on the concrete. There was grass over there, but I was following the concrete, even though it was the long way around. At what point did I become conditioned to keep off the grass, and follow the concrete wherever it leads? On the concrete, you have to move out of the way of bikes and cars and strollers. There's very seldom a situation on the grass where you have to do that. So I decided to get off of the concrete.
You probably think I'm making a big deal out of a little short walk through a patch of dead grass in the city- and you'd be right. It really is kind of sad - that that's all it takes to make me feel at one with nature, lol. But it's little, intentionally slow, outdoor, natural things that we were created to know, I think. So it was a great reunion between me and walking and grass. I actually felt closer to God.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning said:
Earth's crammed with heaven,Ty said:
And every common bush afire with God,
But only those who see take off their shoes.
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.
"That sounds like a blog, to me."
Turns out they were both right.
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
There's been a lot of talk around my church lately about George Barna's book Revolution that came out recently. Barna predicts (often with accuracy bordering on creepy) that within the next 25 years, the Church (big "C") will move out of churches (little "c") and into houses and living rooms, as described above. The RLP couldn't be more right in describing how his own idea feels to me. My heart knows that it would feel like going home. But there seems to be some resistance to the idea among some of my colleagues on the church staff. I can't tell if it's because they don't like the idea, because it means the destruction of their current career, or if they genuinely believe it's crap. Frankly - I LOVE the idea, and ironically, I'm really the only one on this staff who doesn't have other options, as far as employment goes. I've got no other real skills (some would say I've no skills at THIS job, but I digress), so if things go the way of George Barna, J.T. and the RLP, then I'd be in trouble, and probably be knocking down the door at the University of Phoenix (they do have a door, right? And it's not just a virtual one?). But material success has never been all that important to me (sorry Casey Adams, lol), and if it serves the Kingdom better, and makes better disciples, how can I oppose it? I might be permanently out of a job - but what a way to go!
What if we could do church any way we wanted?
First of all, we probably wouldn’t call ourselves a church. That English word is rather tired, I think. It really doesn’t communicate very well, and it’s not a biblical word in any case. We might call ourselves “A Gathering of Friends,” or perhaps, “A Community Living in the Way of Christ.” I don’t know what we would call ourselves; maybe we wouldn’t have a name at all.
I don’t think we would concern ourselves very much with what individuals in the community say about Jesus or even believe about Jesus. It’s not that what we say about Jesus doesn’t matter, but this community would begin with real living. There will be time enough for pretty Jesus words later on.
We would begin with between five and fifteen people who are committed to following in the way of Christ, confessing their weaknesses and turning their lives over to God as they understand him or her. We would make certain commitments to God and to each other:
- We would meet once or twice a week to worship together. This meeting would be a very high priority in our lives.
- We would make these friendships intentional ones and make it a point to spend time together.
- We would agree to pray and study the scriptures together and on our own.
- We would nurture each other and care for one another, especially if one of us was hurting or in need.
- We would simplify our lives to the point where we could give 10% of our income to the community. Some who have been on the journey longer might give more.
- Each of us would find a personal and fulfilling way to serve God by serving the world. Finding your joyful place of service would be a central part of being in this community, for we would agree that Christianity is a way of living more than a set of doctrines.
We would never pay anyone to be a professional Christian. There would be no staff, no paid ministers, no salaries, and no overhead. If there were even ten wage earners among us, our collected offerings might be between twenty and fifty thousand dollars. With no salaries, buildings, or other administrative costs, almost all of this money would be used to do good things in the name of Christ.
Maybe once a year we would sit around a kitchen table and say, “What do you want to do for God this year?”
There would be a little money left over to buy coffee or even a guitar if someone wanted to play it during worship. Maybe twice a year we would all go on an extended retreat together. Those with limited funds would never have to worry about being able to afford that sort of thing.
If there were children among us, they would sit on our laps and worship with us. We would not have children’s classes. We wouldn’t need them. We would teach the children ourselves and let them be a part of everything we do.
We would never purchase or rent a place to worship. Homes would suffice. If and when the gathering became too large to meet comfortably in a living room, we would divide into two groups. Perhaps the two living room churches would meet together once a month at a park or in some borrowed space. We wouldn't worry about what will happen someday. These things will work themselves out. I’m of the opinion that there is far too much planning in churches nowadays.
We would never advertise our faith community. Advertising tends to cheapen things, and I think we wouldn't want to start going down that road. We would bring friends with us as we felt led. I’m sure some would find us in very mysterious ways. We would trust that those who are ready to find us would find us. Anyone would be welcome to meet with us in the living room, of course. Some might join the community when they felt ready to embrace our commitments.
If there is preaching, it would be done by everyone. All who feel ready to share would take their turn. You would have weeks or even months to read your passage of scripture prayerfully. Then you would simply share the wisdom you found in the scriptures with your good friends.
The best news of all is that we would lay down the terrible burden of planning and strategizing for the business of church. Large budgets, buildings, and programs require business plans and outreach strategies. But you see, the big picture would not be our concern. The future would be left in the hands of God. We would content ourselves with our simple lives of service and devotion. What happens beyond that would be God’s business and not ours.
It sounds refreshing, does it not? And vaguely familiar. Even if you’ve never been a part of something like that, your heart knows that it would feel like going home.
Sunday, December 4, 2005
Seriously - funniest guy I've ever heard. When I flip through the channels, I can't pass him up. I used to watch him in college, and just now I was looking for a football game, and got sucked in.
"Sin fascinates - then it assassinates"
"Sin thrills - and then it kills"
"You don't try Jesus. You try broccoli. You try low-fat ice cream. And it's terrible! It tastes like ground up styrofoam."
Comedy GOLD - i'm tellin' ya.
Oh, and also - God wants to make you rich.