Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guatemala, Day 1 - Vista Real Nice

9:15 p.m. - Landed in Guatemala City, Guatemala with a great group of folks from Lead 222 and Compassion International.  Flight was pretty bad, for the same reason I hate roller coasters. Turbulence, some zero gravity moments - no kidding.

Man, if you ever get a chance to take a trip with Compassion International - DO IT.
They really do things right! You should see this hotel they've put us up in!
Seriously. I don't think I've ever set foot in a place this nice - EVER.
I don't think I've seen a place this nice on TV or in movies, either.
This is my room:
 20 foot ceilings. Hundreds of pillows.
That guy over there? That's my roommate, Taco. Yes, TACO.
He's a youth guy in Magnolia, TX. We're just about the only 2 guys from the Houston Area. Some folks are from as far away as Traverse City, Michigan and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Here's some schwag that Compassion had left for us in our rooms when we checked in:
That's a sweet handmade journal, a weird cloth lady, and some kind of candy. Oh, and some bottled water (not pictured) because, you know.
They also had all our room keys ready for us, with a sticker right on it that had our pre-paid wireless internet username and password! Thanks Compassion!
I wish I could get Compassion to plan and book my next vacation! Get right on that, guys...
Well, I imagine tomorrow's visit to a Compassion Project will be in stark contrast to the luxury we are enjoying tonight. Here's hoping there's some joy to be had with the arrival of 20 gringos.

More to come...

Friday, May 21, 2010

*slurrrrp* Ahhhhh!

This is my coffee cup.
Ain't she a beauty?

As you can see - it's a Batman coffee cup.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
It lives on my desk at work, and helps me get through the hours by providing a more-than-average-amount of hot, black, sweet coffee a couple of times a day.
Sometimes I don't finish all my coffee, and I leave it sitting on the desk overnight with cold coffee inside of it.
Sometimes that leaves a ring of coffee around the bottom part of my cup, but I don't care.
I rinse it out with cold - yes COLD - water. I don't even use dish soap.
It's like how when you get a new cast-iron skillet, it's not really good for cooking until it's been seasoned - until it's gotten the crusted crud of a hundred meals burned into its bottom and sides.
It gives the coffee a flavor all its own.
A flavor that can't be reproduced in a stupid styrofoam cup. (PLEASE.)
I'm convinced that's why my grandmother's coffee tastes better than any coffee I've ever had.
It's not the coffee - it's the cup.

I've had this cup for quite a long time now.
Almost 10 years, I'd say.
If I remember correctly, Abby bought this cup for me after we had broken up the first time, and we were just friends.  I think she got it at Astroworld in Houston which doesn't exist anymore. 
This coffee cup is a freakin' one-of-a-kind unique collectors item, man!
In it's 10-year tour of duty with me, this coffee cup has seen some stuff, man.
If this coffee cup could talk.... well, I'd probably be a rich man, because hey- a talking coffee cup!
But seriously, it'd probably have some really great stories.

Sure, I've used other coffee cups from time to time.
At other people's houses, and at my own.
But no coffee cup has ever been so singularly mine as ol' Batman.
Since I'm clumsy and tend to knock stuff over and drop stuff - I rarely keep breakable things for very long.
Which is why I'm proud to extol the virtues of Batman - the miracle cup.
Here's to 10 more caffeinated years old chum!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jonah - Parable, Myth, Allegory or Truth?

I'm not saying it couldn't happen.
I'm not saying it didn't happen.
Alls I'm saying is - there's no way to prove it happened or didn't happen.
And all things being equal - isn't the simplest explanation the best one? (Thank you, Mr. Occam)
It seems more likely that a man was NOT swallowed for 3 days by a big Mediterranean fish and subsequently vomited up onto dry land.

The only defense ever offered by my Seminary professors is that Jesus mentions Jonah - rather the Sign of Jonah - in Matthew 12:38-41.
Since Jesus mentions it, he says, it must have happened.
He says that if Jesus had compared his resurrection to a fable, or a fictional event, it could be argued that the resurrection itself was a fictional event.
(Surprise! This is what some people say anyway.)
Well, I'm not buying it.
Jesus could just have easily cited a fictional situation with which his audience was already familiar.

What if I say - "Man, seminary is tough for me! I feel like Sisyphus, who every day pushed the boulder up the steep hill, only to have it roll back down again every night. Every semester I do all this work and finally finish, only to have it start all over again the next semester."
If I say that seminary is like Sisyphus - who is clearly mythological, does that my work at seminary is mythological? Of course not. To say so would be ridiculous.

Jesus could just have easily have said, "I'm going to be like Rocky! I'm gonna take such a beating that you'll think it's all over - but you're not going to believe my comeback after that!"
Rocky is fictional. Does that mean that Jesus took fictional beating? Of course not.  To say so would be ridiculous.
Likewise, if Jesus compares himself to Rocky, it doesn't make Rocky an actual guy, or his story a true story.

It seems more likely that Jonah was an actual prophet, who likely prophesied to the people of Nineveh, possibly even leading to their repentance. But around the actual prophet Jonah - there sprung up a legend that through the oral tradition (that we KNOW existed) became bigger than the man himself.  Like Paul Revere. Or Johnny Appleseed. Or maybe like George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.

Did it happen, or didn't it?
Does it really matter? Don't you kind of get the point either way?
From Jonah's perspective - Don't try and ignore what God's asking you to do. Also - go out of your way to love the people you ought to hate the most.
From Jesus' perspective - Things are going to go from bad to worse - and then your mind will be absolutely blown. Also - go out of your way to love the people you ought to hate the most.

It's things like this that drive me crazy. It's insisting on sticking to a literal interpretation of stories like this that make us look ridiculous to perfectly intelligent people, and encourage them not to engage with Christ-followers.

Thirsty

I hate water. Drinking it, I mean. I would rather drink coffee, or Dr. Pepper, or Drano.  If I absolutely HAVE to drink water, I'll mix it with some of that powder flavoring or something, so that it's like drinking water without actually drinking it.  Recently, for Lent, I gave up drinking anything but water for 40 days.
I hated it.  
Rather than bring me closer to God, or cause me to contemplate my lack, or give me a sense of sacrifice, or that I was identifying with Christ in his sufferings, it mostly just pissed me off every time I sat down to a meal.  After 40 days of fasting (and on those blessed 6 celebration days during Lent), I immediately went back to drinking other stuff.  Much to my surprise, in the days following Lent, I have often had cravings for water.  Serious ones.  So bad that I've actually had entire glasses or bottles of plain water (the HORROR!) to drink.

They (whoever THEY are) say that most people walk around functionally dehydrated.
None of us is drinking enough water.  Sure, we get some in our coffee and our juices and stuff like that, but there's no substitute for clean, clear, pure water.  And sometimes we don't know how thirsty we have been until we start to drink.
-------

I hate the Bible. Reading it, I mean.  I would rather read websites, magazines or shampoo bottles.  If I absolutely HAVE to read the Bible, sometimes I'll read what Max Lucado, Rob Bell, or Donald Miller wrote about it, so that it's like reading the Bible without actually reading it.
Most of us walk around functionally deprived of this, too.  Oh, we might get a little bit of it in church or small group or something on TV, but there's no substitute for sitting and reading the wild, raw, naked words of God.
So yesterday I committed myself to a new system for reading the Bible through.
It calls for me to read 10 chapters a day by reading 1 chapter from a series of 10 "lists"
List 1 is the gospels. List 2 is the Torah. List 3 Romans, the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Hebrews. List 4 is the Thessalonians,the Timothys, Titus, Philemon, James, the Peters, the Johns, Jude and Revelation. List 5 is Job, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. List 6 is Psalms. List 7 is Proverbs. List 8 is Joshua - Esther. List 9 is the rest of the prophets. List 10 is Acts.
When I reach the end of a list (Acts, for example, only has 28 chapters), I just start it over, because I'll still be reading through the others (List 9, the Prophets will take 250 days).
In the end, I'll read through all the gospels 4 times, the Torah twice, Paul's letters 4-5 times each, the OT Wisdom Literature 6 times, the Psalms at least twice, the Proverbs and Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the OT Historical and Prophetic books about 1 1/2 times.
10 chapters might sound like a lot, but it never takes me more than about 30 or 45 minutes. When reading about the Creation story, Job's trials, Christ's birth, the Day of Pentecost, and Paul's introduction to Romans all at the same time, you start to really get a holistic sense of scripture.  Scripture commenting on and interpreting itself.  I used to marvel at guys I knew who taught from the Lectionary.  A schedule that assigns to each Sunday a series of Scriptures that often seem completely unrelated?  An OT reading. A Psalm. A Gospel reading. An Epistle.  I thought, "How do they write one homily or sermon on 4 unrelated texts?" But in just two days I can see harmonies developing between one or two or three or more of these lists that are just beautiful.
I didn't know how thirsty I was until I started to drink again.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Free Comic Book Day!

Today is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!
Get on down to your local comic shop for a free issue of a comic you would never read otherwise!
Seriously, though - it's always fun, and sometimes my comic shop will give away free movie passes to upcoming movies. I gotta think Bedrock City Comics in Houston is going to have some tickets from Iron Man Screenings locally.

Today we're going to the Post Office to get Abby's passport.
Could be tough - she still hasn't gotten her name changed on her Driver's License. It's only been 3 and a half years. I gotta go and vouch for her. Maybe knock some heads or something.
If she can't get her passport pretty soon, there's no way she's going to be able to get her Brazilian Visa in time for our trip at the end of June.

As I write this, I'm watching Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace on SpikeTV.
I just watched the part where Qui Gonn asks Anakin's mom who his father was.
"There was no father." she says.
"I carried him. I gave birth. I raised him. I can't explain what happened."
That's a part of the mythos that I remember made me think, "Say whaaa!"
I guess he was conceived by midichlorians? A child of the force?
I wonder if Lucas ever wrote Shmi Skywalker's Magnificat?
Anyway - I did a google search and found a bunch of people who think Anakin was "conceived" by Darth Plagueis, who, according to Palpatine's testimony to Anakin in Episode III was the only Sith who was powerful enough to "create life".

This may be the geekiest post I've ever written.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Either way - Soccer!

A few weeks ago, I was planning a Mission Trip to the eastern coast of Brazil with a group from Copperfield Church - the same trip I went on last year.

To be honest, I wasn't all that excited about going to Brazil again. From the looks of it, hardly anybody else was, either. Only about a dozen people signed up, and even fewer were coming to the prep meetings.

Then, out of the blue, 2 weeks ago our church was invited to bring a group of college students to serve 2 weeks in Haiti as part of the relief efforts going on there through IMBstudents and Mission-Serve. Abby and I would lead, with possibly another adult. Now THAT was something I could get excited about. I scrambled around trying to gauge interest among our college students locally, and those who'd be coming back to town this summer. There was some real energy behind a trip like this. Everyone involved was really inspired. Students were committing right and left to spend 2 weeks sleeping in a tent in the heart of Port-Au-Prince in 90-degree weather and 100% humidity. This mattered.

Two nights ago I got an e-mail from the Project Coordinator for the Haiti trip saying that they had suspended all their operations there, and canceled all the scheduled trips, including ours. Bummer. Apparently, it's really sexy to go to Haiti right now, (which is probably why we were so excited to go) and the place is saturated with volunteers. Not that there's no needs there or anything. There's just no infrastructure for short-term-ers. Which I understand. Security and lodging were issues, as well. I hated having to let everybody down who had been so excited. I wondered if they would think it was my fault for not making it happen. It seems like a disproportional amount of things I try to plan around here end up not making it. Add this one to the list.

So now I'm back on the Brazil-train. Literally, training our students and adults to minister to the students and adults in Maracanau. The Haiti thing was disappointing, but just what I needed to remind me why we were going to Brazil in the first place. We have relationships there. We have boots on the ground already. And having been before, I can help shape the experiences of those who haven't. That should be pretty cool. Oh - also, the church is going to send my wife with me. So that's going to be
awesome.

Now, if they would just send my dogs...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New blog rule #1

All blog posts must be 500 words or fewer.
That last one was 1 word short of 800 words.
If you can't read it without scrolling, I shouldn't be posting it.
Or you should get a bigger monitor.
One or the other.

For example, this one's only 49 words.