Thursday, December 27, 2007

Choose the Booze You Lose (it's a long one!)

Here's an "article" I wrote for youth group. In summation, we cannot expect our schools to "fix" problems like under-age binge drinking as it is not within their scope of influence.

Alcohol

With New Years Eve approaching I want to address a pertinent issue in our community. New Years is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, party night of the year; which is ironic because you’re either ending or starting your year partying, depending on how you look at it. Either way our students will certainly be in a position to make some choices if not this year, then in a rapidly approaching year.

Over the past several months I have had the privilege of working with a local coalition for drug free schools, made up of leaders from the Rockwood School District and the community. Rockwood students rate higher in participating in binge drinking than other students in Missouri and the country. In those meetings I got be on the “front lines” of alcohol abuse prevention and interact with teachers, students, and law enforcement officials. I learned a lot of information and got to see great efforts being made to face this issue in our community, an issue that could easily be swept under the rug or dismissed as “kids just being kids”.

I commend the efforts of the coalition and look forward to future collaboration with them. However I feel as a person in a position of “influence” with youth and parents, and as a Christian I can offer a unique perspective (by influence I mean I have a forum to espouse my ideas, that doesn’t mean I’m important!). It is not the responsibility of our schools to teach our children not do drink.

It’s ours.

By “ours” I mean parents and other adults who care about what is best for our students not only in the eyes of society (i.e. being “good” kids) but in the eyes of God. You see, our schools can’t really teach our kids about ethics or morality, that is not what they’re charged with. We cannot expect them to, nor be angry when they do not. Our students can learn about the legal and biological consequences of binge drinking, but they cannot be taught about why it is a “bad” choice. Because in making a judgment of what is “good” or “bad”, you will ultimately have to appeal to a higher authority. Otherwise your parameters for what is “good” and “bad” will be mere subjectivity, emotion, or pragmatism.

Again, our schools can demonstrate how you’ll pay this much for an M.I.P. ticket when you get busted or show a picture of a scarred liver after binge drinking for years. But can a health teacher weigh in on whether or not binge drinking is a good choice from a moral standpoint?

The problem with this situation is that most high school students do not find statistics, legal repercussions, or health problems to be a deterrent. After all, when we’re young we’re immortal! The “I’ll never get caught” or “that won’t happen to me” cards quickly trump any grounds we present from the perspective of mere information. So we are left with kids that are well educated but not morally (one could even say spiritually) motivated to resist the lifestyle of binge drinking.

So it then becomes the responsibility of the parents and other caring adults to impart this wisdom to our students. This can be very tricky! As a parent, do you fear your child asking if you ever drank before you were 21? Or that they’ll ask if even after you were 21 did you drink to excess? As a 23 year old male, who is a role model for students, should I feel dirty if I buy a six pack at the grocery store? Where are the boundaries? Total abstinence? The age old “if you’re going to drink I’d rather have you at home safe”?

We need to do more than make students aware of the laws in our community. They need more than stats or mock drunk driving accidents or Bible verses. Students need to see the behavior their parents are expecting modeled. Our students are surrounded by images that promote binge drinking as not just what is cool, but what is normal. If you want to see an image that is being portrayed to our students as “par for the course” behavior, rent “Superbad”.

Students need to be shown that binge drinking isn’t just a “bad choice” because of what it does to your liver or how much community service you have to put in if you get caught, binge drinking is a wrong choice because you’re not really living it up, you’re running away. When you drink it does harm your body; but so does the McDonalds I just ate for lunch. Again, it’s not just about the physical consequences. When you drink you are able to engage in behaviors that you might think twice about if you were sober- so you essentially can be someone else. Because hey, you can just blame whatever you did on the booze! (I won't even get into the drinking and driving issues, when you effect not only your own life, but those around you.) This is no way to live.

So what will “fix” the teen drinking problem is not more seminars or more education or more dramatic depictions of binge drinking, but a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, that’s a very “youth pastory” thing to say. What I mean by that is, students can relate with peers and other adults who honestly care about them and who are trying to live as Christ did. The student can see a very invisible thing be visibly modeled in others lives! If a student has already committed their life to following Jesus Christ, that student can be encouraged so that they don’t feel like a weirdo and they don’t have to judge the kids who are still engaging in un-wise activities. No one could come up with a sound argument against education and awareness, that would be ridiculous- there are consequences for actions. But we need to see the limits of mere information and re-commit ourselves to the power of relation: modeling the behavior Jesus commands for our students.

Appendix: Please know that I am NOT arguing for the Bible to be taught in the classroom or for our schools to be overtly religious in nature. What I am saying is, what else could you expect from an institution that is not bound to instill the things I described above?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, I Present A Very Mustoe Christmas: Platinum Edition

Starting in high school, back in the Napster days, I scoured the Internet, the airwaves, and the archives of western music in search of the best Christmas songs for a little compilation I like to call- A Very Mustoe Christmas.

You see, I am a Christmas music phene. I could listen to it all year round, as a child I actually did. You know when you're in stores like Old Navy and they're blaring some awful techno mix of "feliz navidad" and you're thinking "Man, I'm pretty sure they use this as torture at Gitmo" well, I secretly am enjoying it...

So I realize I'm tooting my own horn here, but I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the subject of Christmas music. Every couple years I try to update my ultimate Christmas playlist, and this years is now complete. Over the years there has been some great new additions (this year in particular) and we've seen some songs like "Mary Did You Know" be dropped altogether.

The list contains some songs that are actually quite bad, after all, part of the greatness of Christmas music is that it is so cheesy. Some songs might actually make you gag, but don't leave any comments talking about how terrible such and such song is. I don't want to hear it. If you don't like it, go sit in your tower and make your own list! I tried to limit instrumentals as well. So some of these are meant to be funny (like the first one), some are for nastalgia, some are classics, some are remakes of classics, and there are some really really really great songs here, like, make-you-get-a-little-weepy-great. The one rule I have is that there are no repeats, which makes for some tough calls, but I hope you can enjoy these songs as much as my family and friends have:

(artist/song, in alphabetical order)
Aaron Neville / Silent Night
Aretha Franklin / O Christmas Tree
The Beach Boys / Little Saint Nick
Bing Crosby / White Christmas
Bing Crosby / Mele Kalikimaka
Blues Traveler / Christmas
Bobby Helms / Jingle Bell Rock
Brenda Lee / Rockin Around the Christmas Tree
Bruce Springsteen / Santa Claus Is Comin to Town
Choir from Home Alone / O Holy Night
Counting Crows / A Long December
Dianna Krall / Jingle Bells
Frank Sinatra / Let It Snow!
Georgy Moravsky / Angels, We Have Heard on High
(from a CD my Grandma got me like, 6 years ago called "Acoustic Christmas Reflections" it's awesome)
Harry Connick Jr. / Ol' Saint Nick
James Taylor / Go Tell it on the Mountain
James Taylor / In the Bleak Midwinter
Jamie Cullum / Next Year, Baby
Joe / This Christmas
John Denver and the Muppets / The 12 Days of Christmas
John Legend / Jesus, What a Wonderful Child
Jose Feliciano / Feliz Navidad
Keith Sweat / Be Your Santa Claus
Luthor Vandross / O Come All Ye Faithful
Mariah Carey / All I Want For Christmas Is You
Martin Sexton / I'll Be Home For Christmas
Martin Sexton / Little Drummer Boy
Martin Sexton / Silver Bells
N*Sync / Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays
Nat King Cole / The Christmas Song
Nat King Cole / Deck the Hall
Nat King Cole / Caroling, Caroling
Perry Como / It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas
Ray Charles / This Time of the Year
Relient K / I'm Gettin Nuttin For Christmas
Tony Bennett / Winter Wonderland
Trans-Siberian Orchestra / Carol of the Bells
U2 / This Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Various Artists (Jack Johnson) / Rudolph
Various Artists (Barenaked Ladies & Sarah Mclocklin) / God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Vince Guaraldi Trio / What Child Is This?

So there it is. In terms of Christmas albums, here's some favorites:
John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together.
(from my childhood, and STILL on my iPod!)
Martin Sexton, Camp Holiday
Relient K, Let It Snow Baby...Let It Reindeer
Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song
James Taylor, James Taylor at Christmas
Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Technology

The things we can do really never cease to amaze me. I was able to watch the George Mitchell conference live online, while simultaneously downloading and reading his just released report on MLB and steroids.

Book Review: Can Man Live Without God?

I'm home sick today with an ear infection. So you know what that means, lots of time to blog! A couple weeks ago I finished this book by Ravi Zacharias. I have also read "Jesus Among Other Gods" by the author, and his CD of a lecture series entitled "Why I Am Not an Atheist" really affected me in a positive way.

This book is very much a synthesis of Zacharias' lectures, built mostly upon those delivered at Harvard. There is a section at the end with actual dialogstranscriptions from audience-posed questions. So if you listen to his podcasts or are familiar with any of his audio lectures, then you will already be privy to the material.

In terms of format, the book is very conversational and is divided into three sections:
“Antitheism is Alive—and Deadly,” deals with issues such as God’s existence, ethics, evil, and death. “What Gives Life Meaning?”, investigates man’s relationship to God, and the nature of truth, knowledge, and love. The third section, “Who Is Jesus (and Why Does It Matter?),” compares Jesus’ truth claims with those of other religions. from review here"
Ravi is very much an analytical, logical thinker and his style lends itself to scholarly credibility while at the same time not writing from such a cold and detached posture that it alienates anyone outside academia. His critiques are formed by taking antitheism to its fullest logical conclusions and then juxtaposing those against existential problems that arise. For example, from page 140:
Two contemporary cosmologists make the terrifying comment, "Ultimately it is not human beings that are important, it's DNA." From those words one may infer that prejudice is not personal, it is merely an aversion for certain DNAs. Is this not the inevitable slide of an antitheistic view of man, even though counterintuitively and in practical terms such a bizarre conclusion is incongruent with life itself, where personal love and concerns outweigh all other considerations? Can we just reduce people to chemicals?
We can look at any one of the major tragedies going on in the world right now and if antitheism is true, no body should care because there is no point anyway- after all, we're just DNA.

Ravi is huge on worldview and I believe he is right when he looks at four questions that every worldview must answer: Questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. Great author, great book, great discussion opportunities within a local community.

Ravi Zacharias official website

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ear Infection=No Good

Haven't had one in years, ugh.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Under the Arrow

* warning, quasi-cheesy post ahead *

So yesterday I had to take I-44 on my way back home after dropping off my lovely special lady friend to whom I am betrothed. Highway 40 was closed in st. louis (ugh) and there's this one part where 44 and 55 split off. On the road, they have painted a giant I-44 West sign, in full color and everything. It was great! I don't often take that way home, plus it was dark with a wintry mix about which further impaired my confidence in where I was going. Also, I only have 1 headlight currently functioning. Anyways, I loved crossing over it and knowing full well that I was where I needed to go.

I thought, "hey, that's a great cheesy intro to a blog post about life, direction, etc" So here it is. As I thought about it further, I have thought this way about being on the highway for a while. When there's an exit sign before the exit, you know the one with the yellow "exit only" strip with an arrow pointing to the lane, I love that. It started when I was 16. I always would want to be right under the arrow. Even now, knowing that you don't have to be right under the arrow because of the ways the highways merge two lanes can go the same direction, I still prefer being under the arrow.

I think this is how a lot of us feel about life. We like the certainty, the satisfaction of knowing that we're where we need to be. Now, how we know that and who determines "where we need to be" and even who "we" is could all be seperate discussions. But let it suffice to say that people like security, especially in terms of our lives and plans we're making for the future. Even not making plans to change anything is still having plans.

The problem is life doesn't work like that great I-44 West sign does it? Almost a year ago I wrote a post about how I believe young adulthood is like another puberty. I know so many people my age who are struggling just to figure out what kind of person they are and how to determine their next steps.

A big frustration for me is that in trying to make decisions and seeking God's guidance for my life, it doesn't seem to work the way it does in the Bible. I don't hear clear audible voices. I don't have prophetic dreams. No angels appear to me (that I can tell anyway). I freely admit this could be totally my fault. But I think a lot of us would LOVE to recieve a "vision" telling us how to proceed.

Sometimes feeling like being under the yellow trimmed arrow would be nice huh?

I consider myself extremely lucky. I have found love, I have a career and a calling which I love, and I feel very secure in the choices I've made to work in ministry, and especially at my church- so this is not a veiled cry for support from EUMC people. I'm just saying I have experienced a disconnect with Biblical prophecy and my personal experience. Anyone else? Anyone feel differently?

Friday, December 07, 2007

H.O.P.E.

I saw a Hummer commercial and went to check out the website because at first I thought the commercial was for:

1. a new discovery channel show
or
2. some stormchaser movie or a twister sequel.

It's for real.

Hummer
Owners
Prepared for
Emergencies

...I wish I didn't think it was kind of cool.

Check it out.

Love/Hate

So this year I've blossomed into a full blown fantasy football nerd. It's great. There is a massive amount of coverage on fantasy sports these days. The information that you have instant access to is just silly. ESPN has several columnists dedicated to covering fantasy sports. The most well known is Matthew Barry, who, every week writes a "Love/Hate" column. In it, he talks about players who will do better than predicted (the players he loves) and the players who won't live up to their statistical predictions (players he hates). So I'm going to do a little something similar, kind of. Things I'm loving and hating right now. I know hate is a strong word, I really don't, blah blah here's the list:

Love
-The rise (or return) of the "vocoder" effect in pop music. You know what I'm talking about; remember that Cher song "Believe"? It's in there a couple times. Most Daft Punk songs, Hellogoodbye uses it, and pretty much every song T Pain is involved in. I'm a sucker for that little effect.

-Winter weather. In St. Louis it has been getting chilly which always makes me feel festive. Although, we didn't get any snow like a lot of the country did this week.

-Although I said it above, Fantasy Football. It makes every game fun, because chances are you're rooting for a player on your team or against one of your opponents players.

-Favorite TV shows online. This amazes me. I don't have cable, so I can keep up with my favorite sports show everyday, for free!Also I have worship band rehearsal during The Office, so I can keep up with that as well. Although, more on this topic below.

-Family and friends in the coming weeks- 2 weddings, a fiance coming home, a visit with the family, and my Grandma's birthday party...at Red Lobster!

-Registry. What a great idea. "Alright guys, I'm gettin married, and I need some stuff. Here's a list for your convenience."

Hate
-The writers strike. I think it is kind of cool that the writers are stickin it to the man. That I salute. However, NBC and whoever else needs to get with it and pay these people. From what I can gather, the writers weren't getting revenues from newer sources of viewership like iTunes or online advertising. C'mon guys, buck up.

-As a subsequent "hate" item, I want to publicly denounce NBC for cutting ties with iTunes. I loved getting the Office episodes every week. NBC wanted more money per download (of course) but they also wanted to bundle TV shows with movies featuring actors from their shows (ex: you buy a season of the Office bundled with The 40 Year Old Virgin, and you have to pay more). This is lame. So NBC, you break even. But all I want to do is buy your show from iTunes, why won't you let me?

-Every single "carol of the bells" christmas time commercial parody. Guys, it's got to stop.

-Tailgaters. This could be a whole post in itself. Lets clear this up: if you are in a residential area, going the speed limit, tailgating is just rude. Most of the time the way stoplights work, you don't get ahead anyway. Now, if someone is on a major highway/interstate in the leftmost lane and is going the speed limit, they need to get over. But I've had way to many Suburbans and H2's creepin up on the Malibu lately, no respect. Also, I especially hate that my car is the perfect height to where my rear view mirror is at headlight level for said tailgaters.

I stayed away from several topics that really matter, but these are some of the things I've been appreciating and ruing lately.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Golden Compass

Greetings blog people. I haven't posted in longer than I'd like to admit. I apologize. There's been lots of buzz at my church and around the internet about the upcoming movie The Golden Compass. Here is an article you can read that outlines some of the controversy. From the article:
Starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, "The Golden Compass" traces a 12-year-old girl named Lyra from Oxford, England, to the Arctic to the edge of another universe, where she becomes locked in a battle between good and evil. The characters are shadowed by their own "daemons," talking animal companions that take on soul-like qualities.

In early October, the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights launched a boycott of the film, calling it "selling atheism to kids" at Christmastime in stealth fashion.

Director Chris Weitz has said he cut controversial religious content to make the film more commercially viable, with the plan of being more faithful to the original material in sequels.

For instance, the evil organization dominating the world is not "the church," as it is in the book, but the "Magisterium," which is getting criticism anyway because it's a Catholic term.

Here's what I think is funny- they changed some of the language and plot lines to make it "not quite as anti-religious". They did this to make the movie more appealing to a wide variety of groups. Hhhmmm...how ironic. I remember when "The Prince of Egypt" came out they changed some of the scenes, Moses murdering an Egyptian in particular, to make the film more "kid friendly". So Hollywood makes our anti-Christian movies less anti-Christian, and also changes elements of our pro-Christian films to broaden the appeal of both.

I think people need to keep a couple things in mind, before we get all upset.

1. First and foremost Hollywood is out to make bucks. I don't think they're out to change people's perceptions about religion, they're out to make a movie that people will pay to see. With big budget films and studios, anything beyond economics is just an unimportant subsequence.

2. If people from religious groups get upset, I can kind of understand. A movie based on a book where the church is a worldwide institution of evil is an unfair characterization (although more fair than I would like to admit!). However, the answer isn't boycotting. The answer is to do it better. I challenge anyone to name 5 "Christian" movies they've seen that are any good. If we've got a better story than Mr. Pullman has written, we should be better at telling and living that story.

3. We can get all worked up about a movie coming out condemning Christianity. We can fear that our children will read the books and be influenced by the author's anti-theism. But I would contend that Cosmopolitan Magazine and Top 40 radio
(just to name 2) promote messages just as evil as the Golden Compass, they just do it more subversively. Or perhaps we're just used to it and don't hold that media to the same scrutiny. In short, your 6th grade daughter reading Cosmo might be worse than reading Pullman's trilogy.

So we need to teach our kids to think critically. I do believe that ideas and images have consequences. I'm not saying any hub-ub over this film is all misplaced, I'm simply saying that we should be just as discerning in what we are exposed to and what is shaping our children's ideas about what life is all about.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Book Review>UnChristian>part 2 Busters, Mosaics, and 6 Criticisms of the Church.

In UnChristian David Kinnaman seeks to discover how those outside the church view the Christian faith. The bulk of Kinnaman's research was done among two generations: Mosaics (born between 1984 and 2002) and Busters (born 1965 and 1983). I'm right at the beginning of the Mosaics baby! From the book:
"This book will focus primarily on the oldest Mosaics, those in their late teens up through age twenty-two, and the youngest Busters, primarily describing those under thirty...Keep in mind that identifying a "generation" is an analytical tool for understanding our culture and the people within it. It simply reflects the idea that people who are born over a certain period of time are influenced by a unique set of circumstances and global events, moral and social values, technologies, and cultural and behavioral norms...Recognizing the generational concept as a tool, rather than as definitive for every person means that exceptions are to be expected."

This is a great snapshot of Kinnaman's writing. He clearly defines his terms and is not pretending that his research is the ultimate authority, nor does any study capture 100% of reality. Consider this quote from page 20: "Jesus is so much more than a logical proof". In clarifying the generations he studied as well as allowing for "grey" with exceptions Kinnaman shows that he is a top notch researcher with integrity and does not pretend to have the silver bullet.

Each chapter contains some charts and graphs to visually demonstrate Kinnaman's findings. There are also some thoughts/real life examples from leaders within the church at the end of every chapter. This is the 3rd or 4th book with "reflections" after each chapter that I've read, and these were the best.

The chapters are built around 6 major areas of "heartburn" people expressed about Christianity:

Hypocritical
To focused on "Getting Saved"
Antihomosexual
Sheltered
Too Political
Judgmental

throughout the book there is sort of a "thesis" at the beginning; how Christians are perceived followed by an appropriate Christ like "position" on the issue. More on those with later posts. As you can see, these certainly interweave. So for those of you who just want to know what the book is about and the format it takes, there's two parts for ya. I hope to write on each chapter soon.

Right now I'm off to replace some tires on the Malibu.

Book Review>UnChristian>part 1 Knowing your audience

UnChristian is an empirical effort to examine how those "outside of the church" view Christianity. The research was done by David Kinnaman from The Barna Group, sort of a Christian Gallup Polling organization if you will.

The subtitle reads "what a new generation really thinks about Christianity...and why it matters". So as you might infer research was primarily focused on those aged 16-29. Which is a crossing of two generations: "the leading edge of the Mosaic generation and the trailing half of the Buster cohort". Throughout the book, Kinnaman provides well defined terms so even if you disagree with them at least you know up front with what you are not agreeing. Also, there is just the right amount of graphs/charts/pictures to know that this is great research, without feeling like a boring communications class presentation.

The overall "posture" of the book seems to be towards born-again evangelical Christians. Kinnaman seems to be peeling back the curtain for those folks that are along his own theological lines of thinking. He'll use the words "we" and you're not sure if that means Christians, or those that subscribe to particular doctrines within Christianity. Kinnaman does lay out different "tiers" to Christianity:
Self-identified Christians, Nonevangelical born again Christians, and Evangelical Christians. Since no one likes a mega-post, and Kinnaman has essentially written this book for an evangelical audience, here's his definition: (which is found in a small "glossary" in the back, great idea)

Evangelicals are "born-again" (meaning they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, and believe they will go to heaven when they die as they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior).

Evangelicals also meet the following criteria-
1. saying their faith was very important in their life today
2. believe they have a personally responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians
3. believe that Satan exists
4. believe that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works
5. believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
6. asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches
7. describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.

Kinnaman's definition of evangelical did not consider any denominational affiliation or requisite for church attendance.

This could be a misinterpretation on my part, but evangelicals are the audience to whom this book is written. This makes sense, because that is where David Kinnaman is coming from. To me, that is a fundamental (no pun intended!) factor in how one will receive the information. If you are not a part of the "we" that Kinnaman addresses, you could be in for a bumpy ride. If you're wondering whether I am on the fence on this, I happen to agree, if I had to pick yes or no, with Kinnaman. I would identify myself as an evangelical, with only a slight amount of trepidation given his definitions. But again, Kinnaman is very upfront with this, and kudos to him for not being wishy washy nor arrogant in his assertions. We could go round and round about the definition of "evangelical" and his criteria, etc. The most important part of the book is not what I've started out discussing, the most important part is the research and what it reveals about the state of the church in relation to the world around it.

So, now that you understand the basic premise of the book, and equally importantly the assumptions ( I'm not saying "bad" assumptions) behind the audience let's get to the good stuff.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Burst Your Bubble


So I've had an interesting couple of days. A little context- I'm currently reading the book "UnChristian" by Kinnaman/Lyons and one of the chapters talks about the perception of people outside the church thinking that Christians are sheltered. Dan Kimball speaks of the "Christian Bubble" many times in his books, on his blog, and in his sermons. You guys probably know some of the symptoms- Do you know who Doug Fields is? What about Dan Kimball, who I just casually referenced? How many Jars of Clay concerts have you been to? Can you use the word "fellowship" in a sentence? Do you know what an Epistle is? If I sing two words- "Father Abraham..." can you complete the melody with "had many sons, and many sons had...", and so on and so on*.

If you are reading this and that didn't make much sense to you, you probably aren't in the Christian bubble, or at least have not been exposed to it that much. But if you're like me and your first real concert was CARMEN, then you are in danger of being in the Christian bubble.

The danger of being caught in the bubble is exponentially higher when you are on staff at a church. Even if you volunteer a lot, you still have a job where you interact with people outside of a church community. The office can be almost like a cell in trying to reach a world thats going on outside the bubble (inside the bubble still needs redeeming too, but thats another post altogether).

But I've discovered if you want to burst the bubble a little bit, you can. If you missed my Imam encounter, go read that post to understand a little better. Yesterday, Mohammad called me. His car is still busted, so I helped take him around a couple different places in our area so he could invite people to his Mosque's inauguration (post office, city hall, police/fire stations, area churches, etc). I told him to call me if he ever needed anything, and he did!

You know what Mohammad told me? I had said something about being glad we were friends, and he said that we're more than friends because many "friends" won't help you when you're in need, but I was helping him. What a compliment! He also gave me a copy of the Koran, which, is another blog post altogether, as is some of our conversation.

So there I was, suburban white boy (complete with North Face Fleece jacket) hanging out with a Muslim leader. That was yesterday.

Today, I had breakfast with my good friend Harry. Harry is pastor of a church downtown that I contacted earlier in the summer because some of the Men's Ministry guys had him speak at their retreat, and I knew he had a church downtown and was looking for a place to do some service. Well, a great relationship evolved- Harry and I have become quite close.

Harry and I ate at Bread Co, with time going much faster than we thought. I come outside to discover I have a flat tire. Well, crap. Harry had AAA so he gave them a call (thanks Harry!) and we got to continue our long breakfast discussions. Now I have to tell you we're on Delmar street, an area in St. Louis known as "the loop" which I believe Nelly has referenced more than once, not that it matters. The Loop is one of the most diverse areas of the city in every facet you can think of.

So Bread Co. being the melting pot that it is, Harry and I are hanging out waiting for the tire to be changed and out comes a young woman wearing a pentagram around her neck. Just to give you a visual, Harry has got on a cap that says "Hooked on Jesus" and a t-shirt that says "Jesus Saves". I'm sort of blocking this girl from exiting the parking lot and me and Harry are standing there talking, and we both sort of pause. I darted back and forth between Harry's gear and her jewlery like somebody at a tennis match and braced myself for something going down.

Turns out this young woman was a witch, she was soon moving to Phoenix (and was allergic to the sun, which I found funny, she didn't). She had been raised Catholic/Baptist/Witch and had settled on the witch. She knew more about the Bible and took her faith more seriously than her Christian friends. She was very quick to assume that Harry and I might try to convert her (sort of) and was reluctant to really stand there and discuss with us but talked way more than I thought she might. Her name was Danny. The interaction that took place is ANOTHER blog post for another time.

My point is, maybe if I give a little effort, and take the opportunities right in front of me breaking out of the bubble isn't so hard. The white bread west county mold isn't so binding after all.

After all, a black preacher, a white preachers kid, a Muslim preacher, and a witch sounds more like a bad joke than my last two days. But it's true! We can burst our Christian bubbles if we look hard and take the risks. No, I didn't convert Danny or Mohamed. But I am helping to reverse the stereotype.

New Blog

My boy Cody just entered the blog world, check him out at:

www.codycruise.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Youth Worship


So we're having worship the first Wednesday of the month. The whole goal is to create an "alternative" worship experience. We don't really have a catchy name or some revolutionary model. I have blatantly stolen ideas from lots of sources, and our whole goal is to get kids (and their families) connecting with God in ways they may not be used to, on a night they may not be used to.

We set up chairs in a circle, so we're looking at each other, not at the back of everyone's head like when you're in pews. We have youth leading the music, but it's without amplifiers, and they join us in the circle. Whoever speaks (it's not me every time) sits right there in the circle with everyone else. This use of space communicates a theology that whoever is leading does not have higher access to God nor do they have some privileged position (literally above everyone else on the stage/platform/alter area/whatever).

Our focus is to try and move away from music and lecture into more experiential worship. Tonight it worked out pretty well, so I thought I'd share:

We sang Chris Tomlin's "indescribable" but before we did I asked everyone to take out their cell phones. I explained that we had been having problems with phones going off, and if every one could silence them, then throw them in the middle of the circle so that we wouldn't have to worry about them.

Then I said we'd be spending time thinking about the concept of forgiveness and how Jesus calls us to live, reconciling and bringing healing to our relationships. Then I gave a short introduction to the song "Apologize" by Timbaland feat. OneReplublic (it's actually a OneRepublic song, remixed by Timbaland. OneRepublic has a pretty remarkable MySpace following, and is releasing their first album soon). The song is about broken relationships and being hurt, and the haunting chorus says simply: "it's too late to apologize"

While the song was playing, I had asked everyone to write down the name of someone that they felt they had wronged...a relationship that needed healing...a person that needed an apology.

Then we read Matthew 5: 23-25:
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

I talked very briefly (again, the focus is not the speaker) about the ancient laws about offering sacrifices and that people could be following all the rules but not really be doing God's will. You can follow all the rules but still miss the point. Then I said how we can come to church on Sunday, walk out the door, and be jerks. Jesus says this is crap. It is never to late to apologize, it is never to late to restore a relationship by asking for forgiveness. We cannot seperate our worship of God from our relationships with people.

Then, I asked everyone to pick up their cell phones and call the person they wrote down. Ya know what, just about everyone did. We then came "back to the alter" for prayer and appropriately sang "Grace Like Rain".

Funny how that works- came to church, tried to live out what Jesus said. Plus, we were done in about 40 minutes!

I encourage everyone to try this and let me know how it turns out.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

National Youth Workers Convention

Friday through yesterday I was able to attend the National Youth Workers Convention right here in St. Louis. We were able to take 6 of us from church, which was great. Not only did we get to spread out and capture many different workshop sessions but it was also cool just to hang out.

Heard some great speakers- Duffy Robbins, Tony Campollo, and the producer of the X-Men movies. Got some really good music too- Leeland, Jars of Clay, and the surprise hit, Family Force 5.

Also, met some cool new folks. Thats definitely the best part of the convention, the sheer sense of community. Just yesterday (after the convention obviously) I had 3 people ask me "what it is I do exactly" and it's so cool to be with 3,500 people who do the same thing. We were at a Chinese buffet in line to pay, and some people from the convention were also in line and were eating sherbert. Upon commenting that it looked good, the guy offered me some right then! Now, how often does a stranger offer you ice cream, and neither of you feel creepy about it!?

Also, I attended two seminars with the same guy, and we struck up a conversation and ended up eating dinner one night. I just realized how "Meg Ryan Movie-ish" that sounded, and I'm sorry. Anyways, his name is Jake Bouma and he is a youth leader in Iowa. Even though he's a Cubs fan, I'll throw him some link love on the right!

Anyways, it's good to be back!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quote of the Day:

"Whatever type of activity you have in mind, there’s Musto footwear that will suit it perfectly."

Apparently, there is a British performance apparel company; Musto!

Yea! Go out and get you some Musto gear!

Upon perusing the website a little more, I found the MUSTO ACADEMY OF EXCELLENCE, which is in association with the Royal Yachting Association. I've been trying to tell people for years, I'm a blue blood baby!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why My Job Is Awesome

This is great, from Youth Group last night.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Powerful Witness.

Posts like this make everything else I put up here pale in comparison.

As some of you may know, I had a friend die in a car accident a year ago. Today, the man who killed him (and a passenger in his own car) was sentenced.

Click to read.

Look at what his Dad said, from the article:

"Steven Downey, choking back tears as he spoke before House, described his son as someone who volunteered in inner city neighborhoods and foreign countries and helped victims of Hurricane Katrina on various mission trips.

Steven Downey said he spoke for his son and other victims in court, and he also wanted to speak for Jesus Christ.

"As his representative, I want to forgive Calvin and tell him with Jesus in his life, he can make better decisions," Steven Downey said."

Polygamy

Let me start out by saying it's funny how a lack of cable changes your opinions on what to watch. So, brace yourself-

Right now I'm watching Oprah.

It's about polygamy. Earlier there was a dude with 3 wives. Now a young woman who grew up, was married, and escaped from a polygamous community in Colorado City, Arizona.

I find it funny that there are no major lobbying groups, bumper stickers, sit-coms, reality shows, or major advocacy groups for polygamy. I'm just sayin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bliss.

The sweet "Dunder Mifflin" shirt is from one of the kids at church! It doesn't get much better than that; only one downside was the kids called me "papa smurf"

Ecumenical Baby!


So I'm on my way back to church from lunch (McDonalds, #11 in case you were wondering) and near the intersection right down the street (a fairly major one) there is a car stalled in the right lane.

I drive by, looking back to glance at the driver, and he looks like he could use a friend.

So I park at church, and walk back down to the car. I say hello and in somewhat broken english, get the same response.

The man's name is Mohammad, he's very nice, and very greatful that I stopped. I offer to push his car to my church's parking lot (a very masculine, but foolish instinct, the road is at a slight incline) and get him some help. He is somewhat apprehensive, and who wouldn't be, because tow trucks can be pricey.

About this time a St. Louis County officer pulls up and radios to another police car with one of the guards on the front to push a car in just this type of scenario. So, they push the car up to the church while I called the tow truck.

Turns out Muhammad is the Imam at a new mosque not to far from my church. After the officers left we chatted while we waited for the tow truck. He was very friendly and I think we were both relieved that we could both be sincere in appreciating the other.

The tow truck comes, and I had offered to give Mohammad a ride. Even after the tow guy said he could just take him, Mohammad invited me to come see the newly completed mosque.

It was really cool, I had never been in a mosque before. We chatted about the Muslim tradition of praying 5 times throughout the day and about how his community had gotten started. We were both interested in working together in the future. We talked a little theology, I mostly listened. We talked about what Islam and Christianity had in common, the main difference coming from what Mohammad called "the philosophy of the trinity."

What would not have made much of a difference was me sitting there and trying to give an apologetic of trinitarian doctrine in the middle of this man's mosque. What did make a difference was a sincere and mutual kindness between Mohammad and I: hospitality was shown in me paying for his tow truck, and in him giving me an extensive tour.

It was quite a lunch!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cursing Increases Morale?

Check out this article off of yahoo.com today. "Regular swearing at work can help boost team spirit among staff, allowing them to express better their feelings as well as develop social relationships, according to a study by researchers."

Wonder how this would go over where I work? (a church for those that don't know me)

It is funny (not funny "haha" but "odd", not like a clown BB) to see how different words are appropriate in different situations depending on people's views. It's an especially tough line to walk as one who interacts with young people, whose parents may have widely varying views on the issue. For example, the following might be black listed in some households:

"stupid"
"dumb"
"shut up"

Growing up, I probably deserved to have all of the above said to me! I remember being told not to tell my sister to shut-up, so I guess early on I was under a "G" rated home.

But now as an adult, I casually use the following frequently:

"shoot"
"crap"
"that pisses me off"

Now, when you type them out it seems worse than when you use them in a sentence! But one has to be mindful of the context in which one peppers their vocabulary with such language. So the question is: If its inappropriate sometimes, is it really inappropriate all the time?

So whereas I would use the word "crap" in front of my Grandma and not think twice about it, other words used casually do inspire a double take in my opinion. I've been around young pastor-y types who cursed frequently, and it struck me as very funny because it was very apparent to me they were doing it for "street cred". Which leads me back to the article (betchu thought I would never get back there!).

I think what "raises morale" is there is a certain sense of casual-ness that comes with using cuss words. It's like people feel un-restricted to share this sort of machismo comradery. It's like an ongoing verbal casual Friday- you can take off the tie, loosen the shirt tail, and talk like you were at a bar in Memphis Missouri.

That, would definitely not fly where I'm at.

However there have been times when a well placed curse word (the a-word if you're wondering) provides some urgency or poignant definition to the subject at hand. So maybe there is some truth to this?

What do you guys think? POST A ^%$#@ COMMENT!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

YEA BABY!

It's nearing the end of 2007. You know what that means.

NEW 2008 MALIBU.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wedding Band

So I might be pushing the limits of masculinity here, but I did this for Sarah's ring so I figured by title 9 standards I can do it with my own.

Some friends went to Israel a couple years back and returned with these rings on. The middle part actually spins, which is cool, and you can customize the Hebrew script in the middle. Mine will say:

"For if one falls his friend can lift him up" from Ecclesiastes 4. What do you guys think?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another Mustoe Beard Salute

This time is a dandy my friends. Today we salute the original Mr. Caldwell himself. I'm not sure if this was taken in the 1980's, or the 1880's. Look at that beautiful goat and that dastardly stache! I don't know if I have ever beheld a beard so charming yet so creepy. Well done Mr. Caldwell, well done. You can view his offspring's blog on the "links" section.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Last week wrap up

I know this is a little late. Most of the things I highlighted from last week should be well known as awesome without me having to provide specifics, but here-a-goes:

Halo 3- I call this "the Jack Johnson factor". Jack Johnson makes great albums. Sure, you might not be able to tell a huge difference but one to the next, but why would you want to? Same with the Halo games. They improved on some interfaces, provided some new weapons and sweet new vehicles, and basically just kept doin what they do. Well done.

Remedy, Crowder's new album- Unlike Jack Johnson, you can draw some differences between his different albums. My only complaint about this album is that its too short.

The Office season premier- You could make a case for The Office being the funniest show ever. It did not disappoint either.

Other stuff I've been thinking is awesome lately:

Streaming TV shows- The decision to say "screw you Charter" and go no cable was made MUCH easier by the fact that I can watch my two favorite shows online for free. PTI and The Office are both available on demand. It's a beautiful thing.

The Jive and Wail- It's a new dueling piano bar in St. Louis. I've never seen such a diverse group of people all together having a good time quite like that. From 21-70 everyone was jamming. (I wish the church could bring people together like booze and crass piano players do)

Facebook- Tonight I'm meeting up with my bff from elementary school. I'm actually really excited. He'd probably think it was creepy if he knew that: 1. I wrote about him on my blog and 2. referred to him as "my bff" on said blog.

Pillsbury Biscuits

My friend Steve's videos- We've been having a youth worship service the first Wednesday of the month for the past two months. As part of that we have "video liturgy". Click on the link to see the video.

Well, there's some tidbits for ya. Hopefully this was a more all around positive post. Peace up, A-Town down!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

It Has Begun.

Yesterday. October 2nd. Christmas displays at multiple stores. *sigh*

...wait for it

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....wait for it

.

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......IT TWO MONTHS UNTIL THANKSGIVING! THANKSGIVING!!!CAN'T WE AT LEAST GET THROUGH HALLOWEEN!?!?!?!? THIS IS RIDICULOUS! Last year I had several posts about "Christmas creep" and it looks like "christmasblog creep" is in full effect as well. I can't even type about it right now. TWO MONTHS FROM THANKSGIVING!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Surely We Can Change"


Here's a sample from Crowder's newest CD "Remedy". The song is called "Surely We Can Change"

when all the love in the world is right here, among us,
and hatred too, so we must choose what our hands will do

Where there is pain...let there be grace
Where there is suffering...bring serenity
For those afraid...help them be brave
Where there is misery...bring an expectancy
and surely we can change, surely we can change
something.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

3:10 to Yuma and Next Week's Forcast


Last night went and checked out 3:10 to Yuma. It was excellent. Christian Bale is definitely the man. Also, the red headed guy from "A Knights Tale" had a supporting role, he was the only bright spot in that Heath Ledger chick flick in disguise. I digress. 3:10 to Yuma was not only an excellent update on the classic western genre, but also an excellent title to mess with. Ex: "Hey, let's go see that 4:30 to Ukealale" or "I'll have one ticket for the 1:45 to Yukatan Peninsula". It's probably not much funnier online than it was in person, but I got a kick out of it. I'll spare you some detailed deconstruction of the plot, if you can stand violence, you'll love it.

More on this next week, but we're looking at maybe one of the best weeks of all time here:

Friday (yesterday)- Chipotle opened practically right down the street from my house.

Tuesday the 25th- HALO 3 RELEASE. DAVID CROWDER'S NEW ALBUM RELEASE. Although at different ends of the interest spectrum, you don't have to have 3 guesses to know what i'll be doing Tuesday.

Thursday the 27th- THE OFFICE SEASON PREMIER. HOUR LONG.

Friday the 28th- My lady friend comes home for the weekend.

Doesn't get much better than that. More on those as the week progresses.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

At Last

Finally some hard data. I had always wondered why everywhere I go people stare at me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Balance

There's been lots of good comments over the "Rich Getting Richer and Poor Getting Poorer" post below. Readers who might not know everyone involved need to know that the posters are all close friends of mine and people I've partnered in ministry with. I really respect all the different views and opinions.

I think it boils down to balance.

Balance of salvation through Jesus covering the spiritual AND the physical. If you go merely spiritual, it's easy to fall into apathy and a distant, pharisaic, vague, pseudo-spirituality. However if you put all your theological/spiritual eggs into the physical basket, you're in the pit of merit based works righteousness, and that is missing the point just like detached asceticism.

Balance of reality and vision.
Now, let me quantify that statement. What I mean is, a balance in discerning the way things are vs. the way things could be. Again, I believe Jesus changed the world and as his followers we are to take part in his continuing shaping of our world. At the risk of sounding extreme, you don't get crucified for keeping the status quo. So in my assessment of wealth in St. Louis county, it may seem zealous, ambitious, foolish, naive, or idealistic to think that 1. this can change and 2. the church must be the body that models the change; but I don't care if it sounds naive or idealistic, because I am filled with the hope that God will use us as he pleases for his will to be done. But we have to temper the way things are with the way Jesus calls us to live, because the hope contained in faithfulness to Christ must guide us toward a better way of living.

Balance of our community with our needs, and communities with needs around us. People in West County need love, hope, and a savior just like people in the city do. So it is more than just simple economic distribution. My church needs to be equipped to minister to people in our context. We are building a new facility which we believe can help us accomplish this in a better way. All I'm saying is that by being exposed to the way others in our own backyard live, we can be transformed and adjust our attitudes about what is important and what being blessed is like on many levels (not just physically, but intellectually, socially, etc). Downtown the problems are many- crime, inadequate living conditions, unemployment, STD's. But in West County we have tons of problems too- self worth being tied to GPA for students and "success" for adults, hyper-consumerism, and an over scheduled, over committed, burnt out culture of first place or bust. However, it's easy to say it's not just about economics or physical needs when all your physical needs are met.

Balance of what is really needed vs. what we think is needed. Here's a tough one. If we really were to get down to it, even an average income of $30,000 in St. Louis city is so much more than many of the people in the world will see in a decade. So all of you out there could say: "Well Adam, if you're so down with helping poor people why don't you sell that laptop you're typing on!" Ahh, touches! You know, part of me wants to say you might be right! Let me list other luxuries I enjoy that are not essential to physical life: car, cell phone, iPod, digital camera, dvd's, books, furniture, too many clothes, air conditioning, expensive watch, a $1500 Taylor Guitar, Nintendo wii, tv, this laptop, I could go on. So if it was simply about gettin rid of all things except meager shelter, food, and water I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. But that's too simple. The issue is much more complex than that. But I have found that "de-accumulating" is a better way to live. In case you're wondering, I have sold clothes that I didn't need along with most of my DVD's (I kept the ones I got as gifts, and the boxed sets). What I've discovered as I've shed some posessions, and have been living in a house that won't let me accumulate much more than I already have...is that I really don't need all the stuff I thought I did. It's been over a month with no cable. The more I give away, the more I appreciate what I have, and the less I have to worry about. So in our discussions about distribution of wealth, a tough part of the discussion is that we really don't need all that we think we need.

So what do you guys think about all of that? One of the reasons that radio/tv talk shows are so popular is that they're so polarizing- they offer neat answers to messy questions. They are often not designed to provide rational discourse but rather entertaining sophistry. No one would want to listen to a show where the hosts repeatedly said things like: "Ya, I see your point" or "It's really not a simple sound byte solution". Hopefully people will want to read blog posts that try!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Devotion: Martha and the Machine


I have staff devotion duties tomorrow, here it is for your viewing pleasure.


-Luke 10: 38-42

Yesterday I was able to spend a lot of time getting ready for my wedding. It’s almost exactly 9 months away. There is a lot to worry about! For good reason! It will be the single biggest day of my life thus far. It is a big deal. But I believe the same thing that happened to Martha can happen to me with my wedding and it can happen to EUMC and it can happen to the church as a whole.

But before we look at the big picture, lets stick with what I started with- weddings. Frankly, as special and wonderful an occasion it will certainly be, it can also just get plain ridiculous. Have you ever picked up a bridal magazine? You need two hands. This will probably be a gender bias question, but have you ever stepped foot in a David’s Bridal? It’s like a matrimonial wal-mart. Here’s something a little more “male oriented”: over/under 23,000 for the average cost of a wedding? Over. According to a May 2005 article on CNN.com the average wedding costs $26,327. That means in 2005 over $125 billion was spent on weddings. That’s about the size of Ireland’s Gross Domestic Product.

A little out of control isn’t it? Let’s not even get into the cultural impact of shows like “Bridezilla” and movies like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. What has been a right of passage throughout human history- two people joining their hearts for life- has morphed into a cultural and economic juggernaut. Somewhere along the line what should be “the main thing” about weddings (the bride and groom’s commitment before God and loved ones) becomes almost a footnote to the endless list of things to be bought, arranged, registered, and coordinated. It is so easy to get caught up in the pressure to have the huge cake, the flawless flowers, the magnificent string quartet, the most elaborate meals, and the most extensive guest list. But all of that is crap in comparison to the whole point of the wedding. The hype and preparations for the wedding can turn it from something simple and beautiful into a machine that monopolizes all your energy and runs on money.

So lets go back to the context of Jesus. Scripture tells us that he’s traveling, and that Martha opens her home to him and his followers. Obviously this is a big deal. There are preparations to be made! Her sister is listening to Jesus teach, giving him her attention instead of helping Martha with all that needed to be done in light of the occasion. This gives Martha reason to be a little miffed. Her sister is hanging out with the guests and leaving all the work to Martha! Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” She protests Jesus “Tell her to help me!”. When my sister and I were young, that two syllable name of mine was like a rallying cry: Aaa-duuuuuuum! This is probably a stretch, but I can just hear Martha: Je-suuuuus! Tell her to help me!

But Jesus flips the script and tells Mary to relax, that “only one thing is needed”. To sit at the feet of Jesus. After all, what good is making all the preparations and missing out on what all the preparations are for in the first place? Mary chose what would last, which trumps even Martha’s best intentions.

I believe it’s the same with my wedding, and it’s the same with the church. Even with good intentions, we can become so focused on all the preparations that we miss the point. I can focus energy on my ego and on how I want to be perceived at my wedding instead of focusing on my love for Sarah and the celebration of our commitment to each other. Martha focused on getting the house ready or whatever she was doing instead of spending time with Jesus.

As a church we are to be building the Kingdom of God. I believe even with best intentions, we can instead be running a machine. Now the tough part becomes sorting and discerning the kingdom from the machine. So let us not forget in our effort to serve God that we must always chose to sit at Jesus feet, may we have the wisdom to focus on things that will last and gently lead others out from the machine and into the kingdom.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Book Review: Justice in the Burbs

On Adam Caldwell's suggestion, I ordered this last week and finished it up a couple days ago. The book is written in a particular flow- the author(s) Will & Lisa Samson present a fictional scenario of a suburban family who starts a relationship with the leader of a downtown mission and the courses of their life change. Following that there is a commentary by both authors (usually Will I take it) discussing real life application/theology about the things depicted in the story of Matt and Christie. After that there is a short meditation from other authors. (the meditations I didn't care so much for, part of me felt like it was just a way to get Brian McLaren or Doug Paggit's name on the cover, but that's very cynical of me, so we'll give the Samson's the benefit of the doubt.)

Frankly, I didn't think I was going to like the format but they did a really good job! I was concerned about the fictional family- a high "cheese factor" possibility, but it was very well done. Also Will and Lisa discuss "emergent" theology/ideas very plainly, with no pretentious attitudes, which was again, very well done.

In terms of depth, it was ok. There wasn't a lot here I hadn't thought/experienced myself, but I think that is kind of a good thing. It's sort of like having a discussion with a friend you really agree about something with, it's just not as exciting as a good ol' point-counterpoint. But that is a little shallow of me to critique.

All in all, I would recommend this book, especially for folks who might have a small inkling that there's more to life than their kids schedules and ralph lauren clothes and want to look into making some life style changes.

Justice in the Burbs- an excellent book to spring board lifestyle change and kingdom theology. Creative yet accessible format. Pretty cool.

(by the way, i'm blogging from a very...let's say..."non-traditional" location right now!)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Rich getting richer, poor getting poorer.

This article came across CNN today. Check it out. Here's a pertinent point for me and my community:

The list of the 10 poorest cities was filled with mostly old, northeastern and mid-western industrial locales. Cleveland had the lowest median income of any city in the nation with more than 250,000 residents; households there earned just $26,535. Miami was the next poorest at $27,088, followed by Buffalo ($27,850), Detroit ($28,364), St. Louis ($30,936) and Cincinnati ($31,103).

I live approximately 20 minutes from the 5th poorest city (or 5th poorest major city) in our country. Let me tell you, sometimes it is hard to justify spending millions on a new church building while people down the road don't have basic needs met. On a haunting side note- I recently found out from a friend in the congregation that my current home was the address of their adopt-a-family from two Christmases ago. So the need isn't just downtown.

So let's take a look at some demographics (incomes taken from here), visually this is just head shaking stuff:


View Larger Map

Ok, so part of that was me wanting to show off my noodleing around with Google maps... for another portrayal of have and have not in St. Louis county, click here. If you click on the map, you should be able to see the average household incomes. But to save you some time, lets recap:

Average household incomes of communities that primarily make up my congregation:
Ballwin $66,458
Chesterfield $99,912
Clarkson Valley $153,933
Ellisville $65,016
Manchester $64,381
Wildwood $94,006

Once again, City of St. Louis $30,936


So in the coming months I'm going to be conspiring with members of my congregation and community to heed God's call to serve the poor. A lot of times we pastor-y types get a call to help feed God's sheep, and when they're in your own back yard it doesn't seem as fun or glamerous. Yes there are AIDS pandemics, yes Darfur and much of the non-industrialized world is hurting, yes we need to build houses in Mexico, yes we need to give aid to American cities and international communities as well. But I can't stand the thought of remaining so insulated anymore. If you want to see what has messed me up so bad, read Shane Claiborne's The Irresistable Revolution, oh yea, and The Bible.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Vision of You"

Shane & Shane's new album "Pages" came out yesterday. It's crazy. If you're a guitar player, you know what this feeling is like. You listen to Eddie Van Halen play and you think to yourself "Whats the point? Why do I even try?" Shane and Shane are like the Eddie Van Halen of Christian music. They sing notes barely within the range of human hearing. Anyways, some of their old stuff is a little odd for me but this new album really is great. I remember hearing their first song on the album at a concert in which I experienced an extended period of tingly-ness. Check out these lyrics from the chorus of "Vision of You":

Awaken whats inside of me
Tune my heart to all you are in me
Even though you're here God come
May the vision of you be the death of me
Even though you've given everything
Jesus come

Worst Band. Ever.

Sometimes it's nice to take a break from all things theological. Here is one of those posts.

I think Nickelback is the worst band of all time. Here is a list of bands/music I would rather listen to than Nickelback just so you can see how bad I think they are:

Jefferson Starship, Steve Perry's solo stuff, Hanson, that band who sang the song "This is the story of a girl", Coolio, *insert 1343 80's bands here*, Ace of Base, Five for Fighting, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, The Monkees, Ringo Starr's solo stuff/all the songs he wrote that made it on the Beatles albums, the weird guy from The Eagles- Joe something, Enya, Amy Grant, old Backstreet Boys, Rammstein, Hinder, Akon, Lil' John, AND WORST OF ALL...........MICHAEL W. SMITH. Man, that is a terrible list. But I would gladly buy any of their albums before Nickelback's.

Here's a list of things I would rather do/have happen to me than go to a Nickelback concert:
-go to the Dentist
-go to a safe sanctuary training
-have my car break down
-bounce a check
-mow a lawn
-wait in line at the DMV
-go to a family reunion (extended family of course, not cousins/aunt/uncle/grandma)
-take extensive notes on a United Methodist board of pension meeting
-watch the most recent Star Wars movies
-participate in a live action drama inspired by a lifetime movie
or worst of all...A MICHAEL W. SMITH CONCERT.

So to Nickelback, please stop making music. Your newest song about wanting to be a rock star isn't really cute or funny or creative. Rock stars singing about wanting to be rock stars isn't cool in some ironic way, it's just lame. Also, the song "figured you out" was gross. At least be consistent and make tough guy music or cheesy poprock music so we can know what to expect from you.

Case in point, a lyrical sample from Nicklback's latest single:
Sign a couple autographs
So I can eat my meals for free (and in the background "I'LL HAVE A QUESODILLA")

I defy any readers out there to come up with a WORSE band than Nickelback. You know what, here at Internationally Known on the Microphone, we haven't had a challenge like this before. So I'm throwin down the gauntlet, tell your friends to check this out.

WHOEVER CAN CONVICE ME THAT THERE IS A BAND IN EXISTENCE IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE THAT IS WORSE THAN NICKELBACK WILL WIN A $15 iTunes GIFTCARD! Let the debate begin! (please respond so I don't look desperate!)

-

Monday, August 27, 2007

By the Power of Greyskull

*warning* fairly cheesy illustration alert!

So this morning Ameren UE came to reset a thing or two on our house's power. Thus, all the clocks got reset and for about 20 minutes we didn't have power. Luckily it doesn't make much of a difference in my appearance if I have light or not, but I felt bad for my sister!

But it got me thinking (as every power outage does) about how much we depend on electricity. If I didn't have a clock on my cell phone, I would have had no idea what time it was. It is only when we lose all the things we depend on so much that we realize how much we use them.

Now it might have been because I was still groggy, but in the shower I was really thinking about this (the lights had come back by this time, don't worry). Being a pastor-y type, I look for the life lessons in these situations. How funny that we depend so much on something that (although not often) can really just vanish at any time! I didn't need an ol' reliable clock because we had electronic clocks in practically every room! But when the electricity goes, so does my knowing what time it is.

I think our world is like that. We build our lives around so much that doesn't last- and not even material stuff all the time. Whether its "success", having a boyfriend/girlfriend, being cool, or whatever; when stuff goes down it can be like waking up and having no idea what time it is.

I think this is my favorite passage in The Bible. I hear Pastors say sometimes that the verse for that Sunday is their favorite. Well, I'm pretty sure this is mine. I've just decided.

Matthew 7: 23-25:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.


Christ's words, his way, his life is to be our foundation. It's like having a clock that doesn't run out no matter what.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Survival of the Beardest


My friend from church Matt told me the other day he had been missing my facial hair salutes, I was flattered he would even remember, so here is a Dandy.

This one is for you Charles Darwin. I'm not sure what would take longer- for intelligent life to emerge from a primordial soup, or me coming even remotely close to competing with that big, beautiful, naturally selected beard of yours.

That beard is simply a beut. I only hope that as the sands of time press on that we humans grow more and more adapted to growing giant beards like Mr. Darwin's.

Takin' It to the Streets (thats for you Dad...)


I have some good news for all who will listen. This week a new community college is opening in our...community (allow myself to introduce...myself...). A group from my church decided to be there and welcome students. So we were (and will be) there for opening classes to hand out stuff- water, mini-highlighters, snacks, and the Red Bull girls were there to hand out energy drinks!

It was interesting to watch the students reactions. Of course, everyone also thinks there's some kind of catch, especially since we're a church. We did have a sign, but welcome students and free stuff were in huuuuge font, and our church name and location was in small font.

I guess it makes me sad that we live in an age where you can't even be nice to someone without a suspicion of some alternate agenda. The difference between yesterday and today was really cool, since they were a lot of the same students they knew we weren't there to hassle them, just to welcome them.

Just thought I'd give a report of our little part of the Kingdom today. We had a successful outreach- without giving away bibles, christian mints, or getting in people's faces. It felt good to get out of the church, out of the office, nose out of a book, and just be out there with the people, where we belong.

Our mission was not to convert, but to love.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Yay AT&T, Boo the Number 23

Greetings, I'm writing to you from my new home where both the DSL and wireless network are now installed. The absence of a home computer has provided me a good excuse for not blogging too much in the past couple weeks, but it is an excuse no longer!

Also, my sister and I (having moved in to our new place for a little over two weeks now) have chosen not to get cable. Which means...more time to blog! I know the excitement is in the air. Kudos to AT&T for a prompt service appointment today, even being a little early!

Just some advice from me to you: Do not rent/buy/view in any way Jim Carey's "The Number 23". Just don't.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Religion and Politics-Thoughts

With the election hype building, there's lots of articles on Religion and Politics. Recently, one was essentially talking about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith and how that could effect voters opinions. Some interesting polls are cited towards the end of the article:

"An earlier poll by the Pew Research Center said 30 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate that was Mormon. The negative sentiment rose to 46 percent for Muslim candidates and to 63 percent for a candidate who "doesn't believe in God."

There are many avenues of discussion you could take from this article. From this one poll, you could infer that Americans "dis trust" or are otherwise discouraged from voting for: Mormons, Muslims, and atheists gradiently in that order. You could get into a discussion about the role of the state and the role of religion. Eventually, all roads would lead to the constitution, and subsequently the intentions of the framers/founding fathers. But alas, I am aware that people will skip blog entries if they are too long, so I'll try to cut to the chase.

From this one poll, it appears as if Americans are not discouraged to vote for a person with faith. They're discouraged to vote for someone who's faith they do not share, especially if they don't have any! (a statement that could also be dissected)

My impression from debates and articles like the one above is that many people consider "one’s relationship with God is a private matter", one such person is Rudolph Juliani does because that quote is from him.

I guess to me the issue is not separation from church and state, but separation of religion and life.

I don't think that a religion confined to the "private" corner of life is very much of a religion at all. How couldn't your "religions" beliefs, which are really your beliefs about life be at the very center of what drives your decisions as an individual and even more so as a politician?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Finally Payin Off!

I received an email from Brian McLaren's folks about his upcoming tour in support of his book "Everything Must Change" which comes out this October.

Towards the end of the email it said that the first 50 bloggers to email in their "snail mail" address and blog site would receive an advanced copy, for free.

I was one of those 50!

So now to fulfill my obligation to Mr. McLaren I will be going through the book and giving a brief synopsis as well as reactions. I guess I'll have to do my best to entice everyone into buying it, luring you further and further into a web of desire to purchase this most excellent book when it comes out in October.

I guess being a tool is the price you pay for street cred!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All Time Lows

Check this out.

Don't want the hassle of going to a gym? Have it brought to you! Curbside fitness is a giant luxury truck filled with workout equipment that will pull up to your house for an hourly rate.

A couple friends spotted the bus in a luxurious area of St. Louis yesterday and alerted me to the existence of such a service. Wow.

How ridiculous a society where you don't even have to have a gym at home to get a gym at home. Why would you ever want to leave the house anyways?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What to do what to do

So it's 12:40am, and I'm still reflecting on something that happened at church tonight. Every Tuesday at church we have ultimate frisbee from 9-11pm. We use these frisbees with two different colors of glow bands. We have music, lights, drinks, and pizza. Usually about 80 kids show up, if you want to see some pics check out lwyouth.org

The cool thing about "Ultimate Tuesdays" is that probably 80% of the kids that come don't attend our church.

I don't say all that just to "brag" but rather so that you better understand what took place. So at 11pm we shut it down and kids parents are picking them up or kids are driving themselves home. We have a substantial amount of equipment to carry in, not to mention emptying trash and picking up spare Gatorade bottles and what not, so there's plenty to do. If there were only 2 or 3 of us cleaning up it would take more than an hour. Luckily we've got great volunteers who stay to help clean up even though they'd rather go home and sleep!

But tonight something abnormal happened. There were about 20 kids or so who stayed after. So we were like, "Sweet! More help!" It's always a little awkward when you ask people to help clean up, so like the cheesy youth dork that I am, I say something like: "Hey guys, I know a fun game we can play...help us clean up this junk! Who wants to play!?!?!" The crowd of kids just stands there looking at me. So I stick out the speaker wire I was holding and say to one of them- "Here man, you can play, it's easy!" He just looks at me and says, "Nah, thats ok." He was on his cell phone.

So here you have a group of kids literally standing there having just enjoyed the fruits of our labor- listened to music, ate pizza, drank Gatorade, played frisbee; and now they're actually in the way of people cleaning up, but not really taking the suttle invitation to help pitch in.

Like I said, I don't really know who any of these kids are- I can't assume they go to any church, I have know idea who their parents are, I don't know them at all. But frankly, I found it very rude.

Now as I sit here and type this out, I failing to accurately describe the audacity of the kids (is audacity the right word? i'll get to that in a sec). My question is this:

What should I have done?

Should I politely ask them to leave if they're not going to help, since the event was over at 11?

Should I yell at them and tell them how rude and inconsiderate they were being?

Should I just pretend it's not big deal?

As I'm pouring out the extra ice from our massive cooler, there's a couple bottled waters left, so I offer it to them and they accept- then just keep chatting and pretending there isn't work to do. I ask them if they had fun and cheerfully say I look forward to seeing them next week.

Was that the right thing to do? In my mind, I can't hold these kids to a standard that they might not hold themselves to- as a Christian, I believe we are to offer ourselves in service to one another, especially when whoever it is needs help has just spent time providing me with a good time!

But from their perspective, did they even notice? Were they conscious of the fact they were being in considerate? Or have they just been in such a position to be served their whole life? Remember these are suburban St. Louis kids who drive nicer cars than my Dad.

What is the Christian response? Frankly, I'm convinced that part of being a Christian IS being taken advantage of. But am I providing these kids with a dis-service by not pointing out the err in their ways? Or was it right to still treat them kindly. Was it right for me to fake kindness when inside I really wanted to yell at them?


What should I have done?

(If this seems like a melodramatic post, I'm sorry. If you would have been there the situation would have had more magnitude than reading it on the blog! I also apologize for the many spelling and grammatical errors in this post, it's late.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Post #200!

It's a bicentennial of sorts for IKOTM! I first titled the blog from a rap line P. Diddy does on Usher's 2002 hit "I need a girl". Since the blog started I've gotten engaged, moved to St. Louis, and am not about to settle into a rental house!

So to commemorate this occasion, I've swapped the colors and template, added a "Current Reading" section, changed the description, and basically copied whatever else Andy did. So, here's to many more posts and even more comments!

Monday, July 09, 2007

The New Crib (probably)

So I think I've found a house to rent for the next couple of years. Not buying yet. The owners are really nice folks and are putting a ton of work into the place. So here it is for your viewing pleasure. It's not quite done yet, but this will give you an idea. 3 bedroom 1 bath, giant backyard,cozy little place.





Sunday, July 08, 2007

Unrelated Thought.

Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" is still a great song.

When In Rome


So this article was on Yahoo today.

Basically, The Pope is endorsing Latin masses again. Apparently in up until the 1960's it was the norm. From the article-

"Before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Catholic mass was an elaborate ritual led in Latin by a priest with his back to the congregation. Vatican II reduced the formality and had the priest face the faithful to pray in their local language.
Traditionalists rejected the new style's sing-along hymns and guitar music. Many missed the Latin rite's sense of mystery and awe and the centuries-old Gregorian chant that went with it."


Now, to me this seems like a no-brainer. A service in Latin? Yikes. No body can understand it! If that's what "mystery and awe" means then to each his own, but I'd at least like to hear about God in English so I can then ponder the mystery and be in awe- because I don't understand God... NOT WHAT LANGUAGE THE SERVICE IS IN.

Obviously my protestant bias and gross lack of Church history is showing here. But this got me thinking...

Does protestant Christianity do the same thing? Think about it- don't we have a language all our own? Fellowship...Narthex...Sacristy...Transubstantiation...Epistle...Abrahamic Covenant...Sanctification...I could go on.

I think a lot of times theres a "lingo" that unless you've just been around a long time you won't understand because no one stops to explain things. So although our services are given in English, consider the following being mentioned in the service:

"Today's scripture lesson is from Paul's second Epistle to the church in Corinth." Now, what all does this phrase assume?
1. That you know what an epistle is
2. That you know who Paul is
3. That you understand the inherent connection between Paul and the epistles
4. Basically that you have enough Biblical and Ecclesial knowledge to translate into: 2nd Corinthians

I would guess that many folks sitting in the congregation wouldn't be able to articulate those 4 things, and why should they unless they've been taught or given the proper tools to discover it for themselves? If you haven't taken bible classes in church or in college or you haven't been raised in Sunday school where do you get to know all the fancy phrases?

My pastor calls it "church-eese" or "christian-eese" and we need to be mindful that we articulate such specialized language. The church can't be so presumptuous to just assume people either know this stuff or will have the where-with-all to go figure it out themselves.

If we don't give consideration to issues like this, we might as well give the services in Latin.