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.



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 (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!