Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Quote on "Christian Art"

"Art doesn’t become “Christian” simply because someone throws in evangelical buzzwords, and it certainly doesn’t happen when someone high-jacks someone else’s body of work and makes it palatable to a certain audience.

Art becomes “Christian” when those who view it, read it, or listen to it swear to themselves that they can see fingerprints left from another world." -- Brian Jones @ brianjones.com

Visit HERE for more of Brian's thoughts on the subject.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My New Pet Peeve...Anonymous Commenting

The biggest reason I have a blog and continue to write and reflect here is because I love and appreciate the conversations that have happened through reading others' thoughts and commenting. It really is a beautiful thing that we can come together with a host of differing opinions, world views, traditions, etc., and dialog together as Christian brothers and sisters.

Thus, the "anonymous comments" leave me feeling empty and unfulfilled. I could care less if people disagree with me...or even criticize me for that matter. If you choose to, though, just write your name and we can continue on the conversation you so one-sidedly began. It is amazing the number of people (usually Christians) who become emboldened in cyber-space to say anything and everything due to the option of anonymity. The amount of hurtful comments from one Christian to another by use of a pseudonym or the ever-illusive name "anonymous" is incredible and is starting to really irk me. Let's treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve and keep healthy conversations flowing.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Crappy Weather...Longing for Seattle

People keep scaring Mandy and I with talk of terrible weather in Seattle. Sometimes it is easy to listen to their words and start dreading the "constant rain and no sunlight" (ironically most of these weather commentaries come from people who have only spent a week there one time and know nothing of the actual weather). Right now, though, as I look out my office window, it is blizzarding snow on April 25th. We actually had to cancel a retreat today, in late April, because of poor winter conditions. The Dakotas and Minnesota are projected to get 6-8" of snow in some areas.

Needless to say, terrible days of weather like this do not make me sad to be moving to Seattle, where the temperature rarely gets below freezing or above 80 and there is hardly ever any snow. I have heard that summers in Seattle are gorgeous, with every day being sunny and warm. I can't wait to experience this difference in climate.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Bucket List

Last Wednesday I took my high school and college-age students to the movie "The Bucket List." The movie wasn't the greatest movie I've ever seen, but was very good and served to spark much thought for me and my students.

Last night we met to discuss the movie and to craft our own Bucket Lists. The premise of a Bucket List is that you are to put things on your list you would like to accomplish before you 'kick the bucket'. Here is my list so far (I'm sure many more will be added later). What would your list look like?

My Bucket List (in no certain order)
  1. Have kids
  2. See a U2 concert
  3. See a Dave Matthews Band concert
  4. Travel to Israel
  5. Travel to Rome
  6. Pastor a church that is honestly following the way of Christ
  7. Finish seminary
  8. Sky dive
  9. Get another tattoo
  10. Know homeless people
  11. Live in the inner-city
  12. Record a cd
  13. Adopt a kid
  14. Travel to Africa
  15. Start a church
  16. Sleep on the streets
  17. See a Major League Baseball game in every stadium
  18. Rock climb in every state
  19. Read everything Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote
  20. Learn the piano
  21. Own a Jeep

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Holistic Spirituality

For months I have pondered the idea of holistic spirituality. I still don't have many answers, but maybe have come to a few conclusions. For too long the church has treated the soul as entirely different than body or mind, and I think this has been a detriment to those attempting to follow Christ with their lives. In Matthew 22 Jesus quotes the Hebrew scriptures in commanding us to 'love God with our heart, soul, strength, AND mind." Sadly, the church has neglected much of this command, choosing to focus solely on the soul (pun intended).

I have especially noticed this in the lack of concern many pastors show for their own bodies. I don't mean to throw my fellow friends and colleagues under the bus, but at the same time I think it has become a concern worth noting. I fully understand that some people have biological issues with weight gain that are beyond their control (and I sympathize with them), but there are also a lot of pastors I know that simply do nothing to care for themselves physically. They sit all day in office chairs preparing sermons or sending emails, while only emerging from their roost to have lunch, coffee, or dessert with a congregant or colleague. No wonder they struggle with weight.

I guess my only comments on this problem in American Christianity is that I want to be pastored by someone who fully understands the relation between body, mind, and soul. I want to be mentored by someone who spends equal time in Bible study, the counselor's sofa, and the gym. How can you take care of my soul when you can't take care of your own body? May we be people who nurture all of ourselves, not just those areas that are convenient and don't cost much.

A pastor in Pennsylvania recently blogged on this issue. Here is the link if you are interested.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Our First Garage Sale

As Mandy and I prepare for the biggest move of our lives, we are faced with the necessity of simplifying our lifestyles. We will be downsizing from a 3 bedroom apartment to a 1 bedroom apartment when we move to Seattle, so, in the words of my former senior pastor, we are forced to "purge and pack." We have been selling off our stuff at record pace and it is really only the beginning. Right now we have 80 books listed for sale on half.com and by the time the dust settles that number will probably push 100. We are also trying to sell our piano and will soon be selling my truck so we will only have one vehicle in Seattle. The biggest thing we will be doing in this area is to host our very first garage sale. A friend of ours is allowing us to use her garage in June to try and rid ourselves of our stuff, while making a little money to offset moving expenses.

This is a scary time for us in the midst of this change, but it is also very exciting. Mandy and I eagerly await the chance to start over and live our lives differently this time around. We desire to be simple people who care for God, others, and the environment, and show it through our actions.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Free Rice

I just came upon this interesting website tonight thanks to a random comment on my previous blog from a brother in Christ. I thought this was fascinating. Read through the FAQs on the site for more info. Good luck with your vocabulary.


A Great Week Part 2

Like I've said previously, this past week was simply amazing. Following a great three days in Chicago at the Willow Creek Youth Ministry Conference there were 6 of us who attended the Bulls v. Cavs game at the United Center that night, which was a great experience.

On Saturday we spent a little time in downtown Chicago. We had lunch at Ed Debevic's, a 50's burger joint where the waiters give you crap the whole time. It is a lot of fun. After lunch we piled in the van and headed 3 hours east, around Lake Michigan, to Grand Rapids. Mandy, my friend David, a college student on the trip named Scott (who is going out to Mars Hill Grad School this fall too), and I had dinner at a friend of mine's house that evening. We met this couple from Grand Rapids in Seattle when we visited and became quick friends. It was great to see them again, as the next time we see each other we will both be living in Seattle.

On Sunday morning we all attended church at Rob Bell's church, Mars Hill Bible Church. The service was awesome and it was great to hear Rob in person. Following the service we were able to talk with him for a few minutes before getting back in the van for the 12 hour trip home in one day.

It was so great to do that whole trek one more time before moving so far away. Both Willow Creek and Rob Bell have been incredibly influential in my life, so it was great to visit them again.

Thoughts on the NBA

For quite some time my sports fanhood was rarely directed at NBA Basketball, but that has begun to change in the last few years. A number of things about the NBA have caught my interest in the past couple weeks, so I thought this might be worth a few comments.

Firstly, I had the chance to attend my first NBA basketball game ever this past weekend. We were in Chicago this past week for a youth ministry conference that ended this past Friday when we realized that the Chicago Bulls were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers that evening, Friday, April 11. That night we went down to the United Center to try to secure tickets but the only tickets we could get were standing room only tickets. We bought them and were able to find six seats together in the upper deck where no one was sitting, so we actually had quite good seating. The game was amazing as LeBron dropped 24 in the first quarter, including 2 monster dunks. The Bulls went on to win and it was a great experience for all of us.

The excitement of attending a live game for the first time leaves me incredibly disappointed about the Seattle SuperSonics, though. Most of you know that my wife, Mandy, and I are moving to Seattle this summer, so being a sports fan I was looking forward to watching the Sonics in Key Arena during our time in the Northwest. Sadly, though, it appears inevitable that the Sonics will be moving to Oklahoma City for the start of next season. I'm very frustrated about this, but I'm still hopeful that the city will be able to stop this process from happening. Supposedly the owner of Starbucks, who used to own the Sonics, is working on buying the team back so he can keep them in the city. I'm praying for his attempts. The Sonics have such a rich heritage in Seattle and I was hopeful to jump on that bandwagon next season, not to mention have the opportunity to watch Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and a lottery pick from this year's draft.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Great Week Part 1

Sorry I haven't blogged lately, but I have been out of Sioux Falls since Tuesday afternoon. This last week I attended a youth ministry conference in Chicago at Willow Creek Community Church where some of my favorite authors were speaking. On Wednesday we heard Brian McLaren and Shane Claiborne speak, and they were both incredible. I had heard Brian speak before, but not since I finished his newest book "Everything Must Change." It was great to finally hear Shane Claiborne speak in person. His book "The Irresistible Revolution" greatly inspired me and I am in the process of reading his newest book "Jesus for President." I am so encouraged by his lifestyle, that change really is possible in people's lives and in systemic problems of our world.

On Thursday we sat through 4 different breakout sessions which were very good, but the highlight of the day came in the evening. We had the opportunity to see Switchfoot in an acoustic performance, which was awesome. After that we got to see the world premiere of the newest Nooma film by Rob Bell, called "Shells". The video was fantastic and I am looking forward to seeing how it impacts people's lives.

We finished the conference on Friday morning with two more sessions, including Dan Kimball, who is one of the leading voices in the postmodern conversation. Dan briefly discussed his newest book "They Like Jesus but Not the Church," which I am excited to read.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Affluenza At Its Worst

I have been reading this book called "Affluenza" recently which talks of the problems of affluence in our society. The author makes the claim that affluence operates like influenza, with similar effects and solutions. I was with my youth group in the Mall of America this weekend and heard about this conversation between one of my volunteers and one of my students. Here is a transcript (not word for word) of the conversation, proof of how Affluenza has affected teenagers:

Scene: walking past an electronic store window

Student: "I should buy 'RockBand'"

Volunteer: "Don't you already have RockBand?"

Student: "Yeah, I do."

Volunteer: "Then why would you buy another copy of it?"

Student: "Because I have enough money with me."

Life in a Kowalski's World

This weekend I was in Minneapolis for a Twin's game and participated in one of the oddest shopping experiences of my life. My friend Nate and I needed to buy breakfast supplies for a group of students so we set out in search of the ever-illusive supermarket. We were staying in a church in a very ritzy suburb, so I had my doubts as to the type of store we might come upon. My doubts were confirmed.

The only grocery store we could find in the area was called Kowalski's Market. The store was located in a fancy strip mall and the store front looked like it belonged in Stepford. Upon entering we were greeted by a fancy coffee shop, hardwood floors, wooden columns at the end of each aisle, crown molding around the ceiling, and...a fireplace. This grocery store, the usual home to the basic staples of life, was filled with food that most people couldn't afford and would never think of buying unless they desired status and prestige. Needless to say, Nate and I left our cart sitting in the aisle and left the store empty-handed.

I could not believe that our country has reached a point where even groceries become a status symbol and a sign of power and wealth. I was sickened by how this store furthered the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' of our society. We have become a culture of power-mongering people who will even use the basic necessities of life to further our status in society.

I pray that Americans would come to their senses and reform their lifestyles. May we take seriously Jesus' message of sacrifice and service, a downward mobilization toward simplicity. May we remember that whenever Jesus talked about food he either talked of the common elements of the day (bread, fish, and wine) or was inviting to a feast those who had no place being there. May we take more seriously hunger and poverty worldwide than our own pride and arrogance.