Friday, April 25, 2008

A World Without Rules...

Whew! I haven't been following all of the viral marketing for the Dark Knight movie, and believe me there has been a TON of it, but this is the latest reveal from
It's not as impressive to me as some of the others have been. In fact, this one just screams out to me - "That head-piece looks nothing like the comics!" Other than that, it's pretty cool. I'm pretty excited about all the movies coming up this year. Besides this there's Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Incredible Hulk, Prince Caspian, Star Trek, Speed Racer, 007 - Quantum of Solace, Wanted, Hancock, Get Smart, and The X-Files 2: I Want To Believe!!! It's going to be a busy one. Abz and I are going to kick it off by going to see Baby Mama this weekend. I shore am a sucker for some Tina Fey.

Days 3 and 4 - Genesis 28:20-40:11 and 40:12-50:26

What an epic two days! The story of Jacob and Joseph is the stuff movies are made from! It's a brilliant bronze-age tale. It's got everything - trickeration, sexytime, war, famine, infighting, work, love, separation and reconciliation - but it won't let us forget how primitive these people and times were. I'm trying to cut down on the notes, but keep in mind this is two days worth.
Now - new and improved with links to the described passages at!

Chapter 29
- My old Hebrew professor told us that "Leah" means "cow". Awesome!

Chapters 30 & 31
- I love how they gave their children names that meant something about the circumstances surrounding their birth. I wish more people did this today - but I'm afraid if they did the most common name of 2008 would end up being Whoops!, or VanHalenTourMilwaukee. Incidentally, the most commonly given boys' name for 2006 (the last year on record) was Jacob. So how 'bout that.

- See, now this is why polygamy is a problem.

Chapter 32
- See, now the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel is absolutely one of the coolest things ever. It says so much about the journey of Jacob's life, and who he has become. When we first meet Jacob, the "heel-snatcher", the "trickster", he lives up to his name. The first time we see him posed with the question "Who are you?" (by his father, Isaac, when he steals his brother's blessing), he pretends to be someone else. Not comfortable in his own skin, or playing his own role - not content with the station allotted to him in life - he denies being Jacob at all.

Since then he has fled for his life from Esau, encountered God at Bethel, worked for years on Laban's farm, married the wrong woman, then the right one, had a multitude of sons, and brokered a deal with Laban to make himself rich. He has undergone quite a maturing process. Now, when asked, "Who are you?" or "What is your name?" he is finally ready to respond, "Jacob". And no sooner has he done so, but God changes his name to Israel.

Chapter 34
- Not a ton of notes on this Chapter, but I did find it sadly hilarious what Jacob's sons did to the man who raped their sister, and then asked to pleasepleaseplease marry her.
"I tell you what. Why don't you and all of your men have this primitive genital mutilation ritual performed on yourselves - and then we'll talk."
2 days later, they're all limping and sore...
"Okay guys... we did what you asked! (ouch) Now can I marry your si-SLICECUTKILLDIE!

Chapter 38
- Ahh, the famous prooftext on masturbation.
For the record - Onan was struck dead for not producing and heir with his dead brother's wife like he was supposed to, not for "spilling his semen on the ground".

Chapters 40 &41
- Ahhh, Joseph - the fresh-faced little spoiled brat of Jacob's brood. Told all 10 of his older brothers about a dream he had where they would all bow down to him. It's what got him sold off to Egypt in the first place. Now, here he using his dream-interpreting skills to get out of jail, and find favor with Pharoah. Vindicated!

Chapters 42-44
- Joseph must have been absolutely relishing this opportunity to mess with his brothers, after what he had done to him. Didn't he have the right to be angry? I think his point of view on the whole incident was really interesting. What they intended for ill, God intended for good, therefore they didn't send him to Egypt - God did. What an interesting insight for all of us when our circumstances seem to take a turn for the worse.

Chapter 45
- I would really like to have been a scarab beetle on the palace wall for Joseph's big reveal.

- Don't do it boys! 400 years of oppression! Bricks without straw! Bricks without straaaawwwwww.....

That's it for Genesis.
Exodus tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day 2 - Genesis 17:1-28:19

I've really gotta ease up on the notes.
Starting tomorrow, of course.

- Genesis 17:5 - a name change. See yesterday.

- In Genesis 17:11 God institutes circumcision as a way of identifying His covenant with Abraham and his descendants. Really? Circumcision? There's not a better way of identifying the "chosen people"? There's not a less-painful, less-traumatic, perhaps more-noticeable way? Ideally - most people will never know whether a person is circumcised or not, correct?

The other freaky thing is - context suggests that circumcision was already a thing.
I mean - God and Abraham didn't invent it here, they just adopted it.
Somebody else, at some point, thought it would be a great idea to take a flint-knife to their foreskin... or someone else's.

-Genesis 17:15 -
another name change.
God: "
I will decide who you are. Nobody else."

- Why is it so ridiculous to Abraham and Sarah that they would have children at 100 and 90, respectively? Abraham's own father was 70 when he was born. Only 10 generations ago, Shem -
who was still alive at this point (do the math! Or check out this chart) - had a child at 100 years of age.

- Genesis 18:13-15. This exchange between Sarah, Abraham and God made
me laugh.

- Genesis 18:20-33 is Abraham bartering with God to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. A few observations here. 1) Abraham
actually believes his conversation with God can affect the outcome. 2) It does. 3) Why does he stop at 10 faithful men? Why doesn't he go all the way to 1? Especially since he knows Lot and his family are there.

- Genesis 19:8. That dude Lot sold his daughters out to a porchload of sexual deviants a little too quickly for my taste.

- Genesis 19:13. Where is this "outcry" against Sodom coming from? The neighbors? Lot's daughters?

- After their Mom is turned into a pillar of salt, Lot's daughters get him drunk and take turns getting pregnant by him. To them, it seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Like a post-apocalyptic, last-man-on-earth scenario. To me, it sounds like the kind of scarred-psyche thinking that results from knowing your father would hand you over to a city full of angelphiles with a penchant for buggery.

- In Genesis 20, we again have Abraham saying that Sarah is his sister, so that the locals don't figure her for his wife and kill him for her. She's taken and almost taken advantage of by the local prefect. What I don't get is that, at this point - SARAH IS MORE THAN 90 YEARS OLD!

- Genesis 24:3. The phrase "put your hand under my thigh", sounds a little pull-my-finger-ish. The textual note in my Bible says, "Near the organ of procreation, probably because this oath was related to Abraham's last will and testament, and called for obedience on the part of Isaac."
Either way. Ew.

- Genesis 25:25. Esau, also known as Edom. Edom means "red", and is a version of Adam, which means "dirt". Both are plays on the word for the red clay indigenous to the region.

- Genesis 25:26. Jacob means, literally, "heel-snatcher", and figuratively, "trickster". What's in a name?

- Genesis 26:7. Wife? Sister? Wife? Sister? Like father like son, I guess. Weren't Abraham and Isaac ever afraid that
somebody would eventually sleep with their wives because they didn't realize they were already married?

The Bible, Day 1 - Genesis 1:1 - 16:16

The world's greatest small group (ours) has decided to read through the Bible in 90 Days. We're using the plan in this book. 12 pages a day for 90 days. Abby and I read day 1 last night, and I decided to make some notes to post here. Look for this to be ongoing. Either that or I am a backslidden apostate on a fast train to Hellville. Your guess is as good as mine.

Here we go:
- During the creation account, Day 2 is the only day that is not called "good". It's true. Go back and read it again. I didn't notice this on my own, somebody had to point it out to me. But now I can't read Genesis 1 without thinking about it. Creation scientists would say that it's because that's the day God created the "firmament" (KJV) - a highly compressed layer of water that surrounded the earth in its upper atmosphere. They theorize that God knew he would later destroy this layer of water when he flooded the world (see Noah, Ark, Genesis 7), so he refrained from calling it "good". I, however, do not consider myself a creation scientist.

- Genesis 1:29-30 (you're gonna have to go back and look these up yourself. It can only help you.) This is before the fall. Before sin entered the world. When things were as God had created them and intended them to be. Did God intend for all men and beasts to be vegetarians/herbivores? It seems so from this verse. This would also suggest that there was no death before sin entered the world - not even animals killed for food - which makes sense to me, since death comes as a result of sin. Well, maybe there was large-scale plant death - but nobody cares about plants. They're not
real life. Right?

- Maybe this is a little too John Eldredge - but Genesis 2 reminds me that Eve was created in the Garden, and that Adam was created somewhere else and "placed" in the Garden.

- Genesis 2:19, 20 - Assigning a name to something/someone means you have authority over them. Adam and the animals... parents and their children. This will become more important when we consider Abram/Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Saul/Paul, etc.

- Genesis 3:3 - Eve tells the serpent that God told them they weren't to eat of the fruit of that tree,
or even touch it, which is a step beyond what God actually said. Since Eve wasn't around at the time God gave this order, I'm wondering if Adam told her that part - "Look - don't even touch it!" - just to cover his butt. How'd that work out for you, bro?

- Genesis 3:22 - Apparently, the Tree of Life is a completely different thing than the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I have more thoughts on this than I'd like to type here. But woe unto my small group on Sunday!

- Cain and Abel. (HT to Brian McLaren on this)
Cain (Farmer. Field owner)... KILLED Abel (Shepherd. Livestock owner)
in a field!
Two livelihoods that are fundamentally in conflict.
McLaren suggests that these two represent huge shifts in human culture. One agrarian, tied to the land for life, prone to accumulating stuff, nervous about protecting its boundaries and interests. And the other nomadic, free to wander, trusting in God to provide new land for animals to graze in. Perhaps Cain killed Abel over a boundary dispute. I fear I've said too much already.

- I have no idea what Genesis 4:26 means.
"At that time, people began to call upon the name of the Lord."

- Genesis 6:4 is one of the classic "What the!?!" verses in the entire Bible. I love Madeline L'Engle's book Many Waters, and its take. She tells a story where the Nephilim and Seraphim are angelic beings, 9 feet tall and beautiful, who also take the form of some animal. They scandalously intermarry with the daughters of men. It's fiction, of course, but interesting fiction, nonetheless.

- Noah entered the ark on the 17th day of the 2nd month, and finally exited the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month -
1 year and 10 days later! I'm not sure what the calendar differences are between them and us, but I do know this - that is one long stinky boat ride.

- Genesis 9:3 - God officially opens up animals as an option for food. Meat is no longer murder. Why now? Why wait this long?

- Genesis 10:25 - "To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg,
for in his days the earth was divided" Not sure what the heck that means. Commentaries and the New Living Translation tell me it might refer to the Tower of Babel, when people began to speak different languages, and went separate ways. But I certainly wouldn't get that from a straight reading of most translations.

That's all for Day 1. Stay tuned - I'm off now to read for Day 2.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


(click to enlargify)

How To Be Good

Well, mission accomplished. I just finished How To Be Good by Nick Hornby. I must say, it was a very enjoyable read. I have missed reading fiction, and this was a welcome Renaissance. It took me about a week, and quite frankly could have taken half that time if I wanted. It was refreshing to find a book that I would pick up in favor of turning on the TV. I confess that it is difficult to steal my affection from television. After all, we've been together so long.

The book itself is the story told from the perspective of Katie, a successful doctor in the town of Leeds in the central part of England. She becomes dissatisfied with her marriage to David, a newspaper columnist known as "the angriest man in Holloway". Kind of like an Andy Rooney, or a Peter Griffin "What Grinds My Gears" kind of columnist. After dropping the D-bomb (divorce) on him, the couple struggles to decide what to do about their failing relationship when David undergoes a radical spiritual transformation. No longer "the angriest man in Holloway", he sets out on a mission to change the world - starting with his family. Katie who was unsure about the man he was, finds this new David almost unrecognizable, and struggles with questions about his worldview, and what it means for their already shaky marriage. It's a hilarious, complex, intelligent story that, in the end, asks the question -
Is it really possible to change the world, when it's so very difficult to change yourself?

Since I liked How To Be Good so much, I've decided to move on to another Nick Hornby effort - A Long Way Down. From what I can tell, it's about four strangers who happen upon each other on the roof of a London building famous as a last stop for those about to end their lives, and the conversations they have with each other about their reasons for wanting to do so.

Anybody read this one before?
If you have, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
Billy - I'd also like to hear what you think of
How To Be Good, if you're anywhere near finished.
After this, if I'm not too burned out on Hornby - I might go ahead and read
High Fidelity, even though I said I would avoid the ones that had been made into movies that I had seen. After that - maybe some Tolkein, or maybe I'll do what Abby has started doing, and pick Desire of the Everlasting Hills back up.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The "meh" heard 'round the world!

Amid sub-zero temperatures in the underworld, flocks of pigs in V-formation, and the trauma of flying monkeys escaping from rectums worldwide - several sources are reporting that it is here!!
It's finally here!!

No, kids. Not actual Democracy in China. Don't be silly.

I'm talking about the long, long, long-awaited (but I'm not sure by whom) new album from Guns 'N Roses.
(Featuring exactly 1 of the original band members. It's like if Credence Clearwater Re-Visited put out an album of new music.)
Apparently, Axl has finally handed over the finished product to Geffen records for release. Rumors are it will be accompanied by either a production documentary feature, or a reality TV show.
What took so long, you might ask?

(HT to The Onion)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


- Bikes
Abby and I bought ourselves a couple of bikes this weekend. Here is a picture of what I got, except mine is solid orange-ish red. It's a Mongoose. The seat is VERY uncomfortable, and has left an indelible impression on my butt. We're not hardcore biker-folk like some of our friends
but we've been saying for a while that it would be cool to have some bikes to ride around the neighborhood when the weather is nice. Also it's cool to get our heart rates up on nights when we can't make it to the gym.

On Sunday afternoon I rode my bike to Langham Creek High School from my house to play football with some guys from church. Then I rode it home. Then I went to church that night and played Dodgeball with like a hundred youth. Then I passed out by 10:30, and didn't wake up until 12:30 p.m. on Monday. Then I got out of bed and prayed to God to let me walk again someday.

- Books
I had been thinking recently that I don't read enough fiction. I don't read enough non-fiction either, really. There are roughly eleventy bazillion and one books that I have started and abandoned. Like Desire of the Everlasting Hills, which has been in my right-hand column over there for almost a year. It's a great book, don't get me wrong. It has just fallen victim to my lack of focus and large blocks of reading-time.

So last week I had Gigi the bookstore lady at church order me a copy of House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. A nice juicy fiction book. I sat and read most of it in like a day, and was really enjoying it. It's like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre/The Hills Have Eyes/Cube/Saw hybrid. I actually recommended it to some people just as I was about to finish it. Then I read the last couple of chapters.

Why does every book by a Christian author have to have such a lame ending? Why's it gotta be all preachy? Why does it always have to end up being some lame religious allegory where the light quite literally overcomes the darkness, or the willful death of the innocent character ends up being the undoing of the evil character? It would be one thing if that's the kind of book it was for 30 some-odd chapters. But right around 35-40, it became all redemptive and predictable.

The whole experience was kind of like kissing your sister. Yes - YOUR sister
(Shut up, Billy). I enjoyed reading a fictional work that I didn't want to put down, but in the end it ended up sucking. I should have known better.

So I've decided to declare a moratorium on all the religious and non-fiction stuff I currently have in the pipeline, (Sorry
Desire of the Everlasting Hills. Sorry Church Re-Imagined. Sorry The Shack. Sorry The Bible) and just focus on one nice fiction read until I finish it. Just kidding about that Bible one. Anyway - I'm going with How To Be Good by Nick Hornby (the High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, About A Boy guy). An interesting read so far, especially knowing that Abby just finished reading it a few weeks ago. It's about a woman, already dissatisfied in her marriage, whose husband undergoes an extreme spiritual conversion, and how she must deal with it.

Anyway - Sorry other books. I'm in a monogamous relationship now. I don't have time for flirting with you anymore. It was time for me to make a commitment to one book, all the way through - and I've chosen
How To Be Good. It's smart, funny, interesting, and it doesn't make me feel stupid like you sometimes did. So please - don't call. Don't write. Don't wait for me on the back of the toilet. I don't want to see you anymore. Not for a long while, anyway.

I had a few other thoughtlets today, but they can wait until tomorrow.
Or later on today.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Your new favorite blog (with apologies to go brain, go!)

I guarantee this will become your new favorite blog and mine.

Stuff Christians Like

Best rip-off ever of the popular Stuff White People Like blog - in keeping with #1 on the list - Putting a God Spin on Popular Secular Ideas.

You must read now.

In strangely related news, #7 on that list is Stryper.
The other night I was watching R.E.M. on the Colbert Report, and Michael Stipe mentioned Stryper as their influence during the 80's.
Score one for the yellow and black attack!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Is this wrong...

The truck from Comcast has been outside my neighbor's house a couple of times in the last week or two.
That seems like a lot to me.
And if I were the CEO of Comcast it would probably seem like really bad advertising for my company.
So - if I were the CEO of Comcast, and I knew my trucks would frequently be seen outside of the same person's house for repairs, I would make a very strategic marketing move.
Instead of slapping a Comcast magnet on the outside of each truck, I would have some Dish Network or DIRECTV magnets printed up, and put them on my Comcast trucks.

Is that wrong?

The Rabbi says...

"You have to be so totally disconnected from the pain of the world to think that blogging is somehow a redemptive use of your time."
- Rob Bell in Q &A: Rob Bell Tells It Like It Is, Relevant Magazine - January/February 2008 Issue

Zing!-ed by the rabbi once again!
(see this previous post for his first, more personal insult to me.)
But I'm not bitter.

Being Reel Careful

Robert has a post up at his blog about movie nights for youth groups, and what to show at them. It's a great question, and one I have struggled with over and over again for movie nights, long charter bus rides, and Disciple Now sleepovers.

What are some entertaining and appropriate choices for movie night? It's a fine line to walk. I would never dream of exposing my students to crap like Facing The Giants, but is it ever okay to show Pulp Fiction? I have a friend who has, and shows stuff like that to his group all the time. I don't think I'd be comfortable with that, but what would I be comfortable with?

Is there a level of acceptable profanity? Does it matter which words are used? Even the S-word is commonly used in PG films, but on a bus full of Middle and High School students, you can't hear the movie for all the "ohhhh!"'s and "what!?"'s every time they say it. PG-13 films (appropriate for 13 year olds?) are even allowed a certain quota of F-words. And those things sneak up on you. You might remember what you're watching as a perfectly acceptable family flick, that you've watched a million times before. But when you watch it with students, you notice language, content and situations you would have never even blinked at before. It's like watching it with your parents, or grandparents.

Maybe it's just an indicator about how hypocritical we all are in our church/home lives. We're all watching these movies at home, but when we watch them together on a bus, we're like Baptists running into each other at the liquor store. Sooo appalled.

The point is - you can only watch The Princess Bride and Labyrinth so many times. Actually - I'm pretty sure Bowie's - ahem - "hose-pipe syndrome" in that flick is offensive enough. And I'm not sure how many cartoon or computer animated features my High Schoolers will endure before there's a mutiny, and I'm left standing on the side of the road, while the bus pulls away showing Seasons 1-5 of Family Guy and the Flight of the Conchords DVD. Oh - and until there's a complete REVOLUTION in the way "Christian" or "Inspirational" films are made - I'll not be showing any of that drivel.

So what are some really good movies that you'd consider appropriate for a youth group movie night, or, let's sayyyy - a 16 hour charter bus trip to Glorieta, NM June 22-28, 2008?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

6 Questions

Tonight the 12th grade guys small group and the 11th and 12th grade girls small group are meeting together at my house. I'm trying something a little bit different with them. Instead of using a curriculum or a video or something to teach, I have chosen a passage of scripture (John Chapter 9, about the man born blind) and will ask them the following series of questions to answer in groups of 2 or 3.

The questions, to be asked and discussed one at a time are as follows:

1. What do you like best about this passage?
2. What do you like least about this passage?
3. What do you not understand about this passage?
4. What do you learn about God from this passage?
5. Based on what you read and learned from this passage, what do you personally need to do?
6. What phrase or verse from this passage do you want to take with you?

The disclaimer is: These questions didn't come from me.
A few weeks ago, on a retreat with the staff, advisors, and lay-leadership of our church, a consultant named Carol Davis did this exercise as a devotional with us. She actually used the Luke 10:1-7 passage where Jesus sends out the 72.

My first reaction was, "Who gives a crap what I like, or dislike about a passage from scripture?! What does that have to do with anything?" But I was really surprised at how well the whole exercise worked with our leadership group.

Afterward, she asked how often we had been in Bible Studies that had focused so much on scripture. Ouch. Too often we have been guilty of relying on books, videos, and materials that use scripture only marginally, and calling it "Bible Study". Kind of like the "Bible Study" I did with the college students using Blue Like Jazz, and the study guide from it. Kind of silly.

Anyway - then she asked an even better question - How hard would it be for the average person to lead a B.S. using this method? Not very. So that will be the question for my students tonight. Couldn't you lead a B.S. if it was this simple? Maybe at your school? Maybe for a group of Middle Schoolers, or younger High Schoolers? Maybe for your family?

I understand that a study that follows these questions every week (or every day) might seem tedious after a while - but really the point is not to answer the questions, but to answer the questions in a group, and hear others answer them about different passages of scripture.

Anybody got any thoughts about this kind of thing?