Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pretty Cold...At Least for Seattle

I realize that cold weather is all subjective and that some areas of the country are bitterly cold right now, but it's been pretty chilly here lately. I saw this photo today and thought it was a sweet representation of the cold weather we have had here in Seattle of late.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Finally Done...Bring on Pete Rollins

I just got home from my second-to-last class of the semester and now am done with all of my work for this term. What a relief. This semester has been a bear for some reason. It should not have been that bad because I only had 3 ongoing classes throughout this fall, but I never quite found my rhythm and really struggled my way through the past few months of finishing up procrastinated projects and papers.

Now I can finally get excited about Peter Rollins coming to Seattle tomorrow. Pete is an Irish theologian/philosopher whose writings I have come to love. My friends and I have been in contact with him on Facebook for a few months and asked him if he would be willing to come out to Seattle and hang out with us and lecture at my seminary, Mars Hill Graduate School. So tomorrow afternoon he is flying in and my friends and I will be hanging out with Peter all evening. Thursday afternoon he will be having a conversation with the M.Div. students at the school and Thursday night he will be lecturing to anyone who comes to see him. The title of his lecture is "When God Doubts God: some thoughts on belief, metabelief, and doubt." I have no idea what he is going to talk about, but I am sure it will be brilliant, provocative, and challenging of normal theology and spiritual thought. I can't wait! Click HERE to see the Facebook event for his Thursday night lecture.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Must Win

I make an effort to not talk much about sports on this site (because I am obsessive and most people don't care that much about sports) but I couldn't avoid a brief post about an upcoming game. I am as die-hard of a Denver Bronco fan as you can imagine, and this season has provided a roller coaster of emotions for me. The off-season was rough, as Denver fired their hall-of-fame coach, traded their pro-bowl quarterback, nearly traded their pro-bowl receiver, and had a terrible draft day.

All seemed well, however, when the regular season began with six straight wins, including tough victories against Cincinnati, San Diego, Dallas, and New England. But now, three weeks later, my Broncos find themselves at 6-3 after three straight losses. And they haven't been the kind of losses that you can still feel good about, but rather, 2 blowouts and an embarrassing loss to the dreadful Washington Redskins.

With all this in mind, this Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers has become THE pivotal game for the Broncos' season. The Chargers started slow this season but have won the last 3 games and find themselves tied with the Broncos for the division lead. If the Broncos win this game, I believe they will go on to win the division and make the playoffs. If the Broncos lose, though, I think they will continue this backslide and miss the playoffs altogether. Needless to say, I'm a bit anxious about this upcoming match-up. Go Broncos!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Second Date with Bono

Most of you know that I saw U2 in concert in Vancouver, British Columbia a few weeks ago. The concert was phenomenal, by far the best show I've ever been to, and I was already looking forward to the next time I would see them live. Well, a few days after that concert U2 announced that they would be coming to Seattle during the 2010 leg of their "360 Degree Tour."

The tickets just went on sale this morning so my friends and I quickly gobbled up 10 tickets and are incredibly excited for the concert this summer. Seeing U2 in Vancouver was amazing, but it was still lacking because I was all by myself at the concert. By the time I went to get tickets to that show, there were no 2 seats available together in the entire arena. This time I got tickets early and get to see the show with some of my best friends in the world. Even our great friends Nate and Brittny from Sioux Falls, SD are flying out for the show.

The concert is on a Sunday night in late June of this coming summer, so I'm going to have to wait a while between my first and second dates with Bono. I'm already praying for good weather that evening, since the show is in Qwest Field where the Seahawks play, a uncovered field. Please NO rain!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The (Anti)Evangelism Project

"To invite a world that we would wish to critique and dismiss to be a mirror into our own world is a difficult thing to do. It requires both bravery and humility."

For those who frequent this site, you know that I am a huge fan of Peter Rollins, a philosopher from Northern Ireland, who never ceases to challenge my thinking and inspire me to action. In his first book, How (Not) to Speak of God, he talks about something his church does called "The Evangelism Project." Actually, the project is more of an anti-evangelism project, as the group meets with different political and religious organizations, not to have an inter-faith dialogue, but to simply be evangelized by that group. I was originally skeptical of this idea, but it is actually quite beautiful. As they listen and learn they are allowed to see their own beliefs with fresh vision and new eyes, greatly impacting their faith and the way it is acted out in the world.

Peter recently fleshed this idea out in much more detail on his blog. I highly recommend you check out his post called "Evangelism Will Change the World." Click HERE.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Bible as Protection

Now don't get me wrong...the Bible is incredibly important to me. But for far too long it was a tool to be used for safety and protection, to ward off any dangerous thoughts, a weapon to defend my own beliefs and opinions from opposing ones. Instead, I desire for the Scriptures to once again be the beautiful, ancient text it really is, to use it as a sword that cuts deep into my own heart rather than into the heart of others in judgment and condemnation. This cartoon from ASBO Jesus was a helpful way of thinking about the role Scripture does and ought to play in my life.

HT: The Adventures of ASBO Jesus

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stinkin' Amazing

In July I was privileged to attend a preaching conference in Grand Rapids, MI sponsored by Rob Bell. Along with an incredible amount of interesting and helpful information, we also got to see a number of sweet videos before the sessions. One of the videos was an amazing clip of bike stunts. I tracked it down on Google today and thought I would share it with you today. Enjoy!

Inspired. Danny MacAskill from dave on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Revenge Lie

I spent this last weekend rock climbing in Oregon and took this picture during the drive. Every so often I am reminded of the anger, hatred, and revenge that is so ever-present in this world. This sign on the back of a semi-truck was one of those examples. Now don't get me wrong...I'm as angry about terrorism like September 11 as the next guy and wish America would never have had to suffer through that horrific event. But I continue to be surprised by the incredibly ungracious and unforgiving quest for revenge and retaliation that has permeated American culture since that fateful day.

The true sadness is that this desire for revenge is built upon a lie. Scholars call this lie the 'myth of redemptive violence,' that the next act of revenge and violence will settle the score once and for all. We all know that this is not true. Violence only begets more violence. That next, and assumed last, action only perpetuates another action..and another action...and another action.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is clear that the appropriate response to violence is grace and peace. The only way that we ought to respond to terrorism is through forgiveness and love, not hatred and retaliation. I understand that some might argue that this way of living would never work, that it would never stop violence and terrorism from happening. Maybe they are right. But maybe they aren't...we don't know because no society has ever tried it. It is obvious that war and further violence has not succeeded in ending violence, so I wonder what the world might look like if took the words of Jesus seriously when he calls us to turn the other cheek and walk 2 miles rather than 1. At least that seems closer to redemption than redemptive violence.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Theology via Twitter

I've recently begun using Twitter in order to follow a few of my favorite authors and musicians. I had previously said I would never use Twitter, but on a few occasions it has provided me with some provocative and inspiring words from people like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Peter Rollins. Peter Rollins is a philosopher/theologian from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He posted the following quote yesterday, and the words continue to make me think. Enjoy!

"It is not a question of whether Christianity can exist without religion. But whether Christianity, at its core, is a protest against religion."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Overwhelmed & Out of Rhythm

I'm in a funk. I'm sure you get those days...or weeks...or months. I'm there. My fall semester started over a month ago and I still haven't settled into a rhythm of life. I can't quite put my finger on why either. I find myself unmotivated in nearly every aspect of my world and badly want to work my out of this conundrum.

For weeks now I've realized my desire to read and write and blog but have failed to do much of any of those things. I've had things to say and stories to tell but lacked the energy to make them public. I keep telling people that since we didn't have any break after summer semester, my mind took its own break to rest and recover. I'd say its time to snap back into intellectual action though.

I've got a huge paper due Thursday for my Church History class and then a week and a half off for Reading Week. The 2nd weekend of Reading Week I'll be heading to Oregon for four days of rock climbing, so hopefully this relaxation will snap me out of my funk and back into a desire to learn and grow and experience the fullness of life that was so present last year. Lord help me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Powerful Blessing

I recently came across this blessing that was written by Larry Hem. These words are quite compelling and might be useful as a blessing and benediction for worship services. Enjoy.

"May all your expectations be frustrated. May all your plans be thwarted. May all your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son and Spirit."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Let Hysterical Laughter Commence

While I do watch a decent amount of television, it is mostly in the form of sports. There are few TV shows that I watch weekly, but one that I never miss is The Office. Tomorrow night marks the beginning of season 6 and I couldn't be more excited for the insane humor that awaits. Here is a brief preview of the season premier.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Immaculate Deflection

As a life-long, die-hard Denver Bronco fan, I was crushed to not be able to watch the Broncos first game of the season yesterday. Mandy and I are serving in music ministry at a small church about 45 minutes from our home so I could not watch any of the morning football. That means that I missed seeing the end Bronco's miraculous game. As we were blocks away from our house my friends were texting me in unbelief about the amazing catch in the video below that won the game for the Broncos.

I am well-aware that the Broncos are very lucky to leave week 1 with a victory, but that's alright because we are going to need plenty of luck this year. After a terrible offseason, the Broncos are in the midst of a rebuilding year, so I will take all the luck we can get all year long. Enjoy this video of an incredible 87 yard catch by Brandon Stokely to take the lead with 11 seconds left in the game.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Return of Football

Thursday night marked the beginning of the NFL football season as the Pittsburgh Steelers, the reigning Superbowl champions, defeated the Tennessee Titans in overtime. The commencement of the season also brings the beginning of the fantasy football season. I have played fantasy football for the past 2 years and it has become quite an obsession for me. This year I am even playing in 2 different leagues, one with a group of guys from Sioux Falls and one with a group from Seattle. I had both drafts over the past week, so I thought I would share my teams with you. I am much more pleased with my Sioux Falls team, but that is probably for the best since we each ante up $100 to join that league.

Sioux Falls Team


QB: Carson Palmer, Bengals
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
RB: Steven Jackson, Rams
WR: Reggie Wayne, Colts
WR: Marques Colston, Saints
RB/WR: Braylon Edwards, Browns
TE: Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
DST: Chicago Bears
K: Robbie Gould, Bears

QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Bills
WR: Santana Moss, Redskins
TE: John Carlson, Seahawks
DST: Miami Dolphins
K: Josh Brown, Rams

Seattle Team

QB: Tony Romo, Cowboys
RB: Matt Forte, Bears
RB: Pierre Thomas, Saints
WR: Calvin Johnson, Lions
WR: Eddie Royal, Broncos
RB/WR: Torry Holt, Rams
TE: Jason Witten, Cowboys
DST: San Diego Chargers
K: Mason Crosby, Packers

QB: Jake Delhomme, Panthers
RB: Mike Bell, Saints
RB: Jamal Lewis, Browns
RB: Derek Ward, Bucs
WR: Braylon Edwards, Browns
WR: Steve Breaston, Cardinals

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Importance of Community

My friend David Von Stroh is at an Emergent Village Conference in Chicago right now where theologian Jurgen Moltmann is the featured speaker. He has been adding quotes from Moltmann to his Facebook status all morning and I especially liked this one:

"The contrary of poverty is not property. The contrary of both poverty and property is community."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Much Anticipated Book Release

For years I have been an avid supporter of the writer Donald Miller. He became famous for penning "Blue Like Jazz," but his other writing is just as good, if not better. His book "Searching for God Knows What" was a phenomenal read and was transformational in my life. I've been waiting for quite some time for his newest release, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years," but it is finally being release this coming week. I can't wait to once again be inspired by Miller's words and I hope you will check out his new book as well. He has made the first 30 pages of the book available prior to the release, so I thought I would include those with this post. Enjoy!

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Approaching Theology with Humility

As I was reading Augustine's words on the doctrine of the Trinity this evening for my Theology I class, I was once again reminded of the necessity of a humble spirit when attempting to speak about God.
For if you have been able to fully comprehend what you would say, it is not God. If you have been able to comprehend it, you have comprehended something else instead of God. If you have been able to comprehend him as you think, by so thinking you have deceived yourself. ~Augustine of Hippo
We must continue to speak about God and strive to understand who God is, but we must do so with great humility, treading lightly as we embark on such a daunting task. As Peter Rollins says, we worship an 'un/known God.' While there are plenty of things that we can come to know about God, we must always realize that when we attempt to explain and describe the God of Creation, the ruler of the universe, with our feeble, human language, we will always come far short of capturing God's true essence.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Epic Rob Bell Pic

Rob Bell twittered this picture of himself recently. I would guess he is in middle school or early high school at this point. Its hard to believe that this boy will grow up to be my hero. Hard to believe this boy will one day inspire and encourage and challenge thousands with the strong, beautiful, compelling message of Jesus. Its hard to believe they would actually require kids to wear those shorts. Wow!

HT: Rob Bell's Twitter

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fairly Accurate...Unfortunately

HT: Clint Walker

What is Truth?

My friend Matt has been quoting these words to me for the last few weeks, so I thought I would share them with you. They really are intriguing and challenging thoughts to those who seek truth, and more importantly, seek to follow the 'Truth.'

Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself.
~Iraneus (I think)

HT: Matt Allen

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Great Intensive...Surprisingly

I found myself too busy to blog all last week as I was absorbed in church history from 9:00 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon each day. Most of my classes this summer were intensives...and I dreaded each one. That format is terrible for learning because you are mentally exhausted by about 2:00 each day, causing the final 3-4 hours to be a total waste. The professor is forced to cover an immense amount of information in a small amount of time and is not able to do any of the material justice.

Church History was a different story, however. The professor, Craig Barnes, is a part-time professor at Pittsburgh Seminary and a part-time Presbyterian pastor. He was incredibly knowlegable, had the heart of a pastor, and possessed an uncanny ability to tranfer this ancient information into life-transforming practicality. He was able to bridge the gap of time to make these ancient thoughts and ideas relevant once again for our current church culture. I even find myself excited to get to work on my research paper for his class...and let's just say that doesn't happen often.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thoughts From Wendell Barry

Over the past few years I have heard so many good things about the writing of Wendell Barry, but still have not found my way to any of his books. A Seattle pastor, Richard Dahlstrom, quoted Barry on his blog today and I loved the words so much I thought I would share them with you. Enjoy!
Let me be plain with you dear reader.
I am an old faishioned man I like
the world of nature despite its mortal
dangers. I like the domestic world
of humans, so long as it pays its debts
to the natural world, and keeps its obligations.
I like the promise of Heaven. My purpose
is a language that can pay just thanks
and honor for those gifts, a tongue
set free from fashionable lies.

Neither this world nor any of its places
is an 'environment'. And a house
for sale is not a 'home.' Economics
is not 'science', nor 'information' knowledge.
A knave with a degree is a knave. A fool
in a public office is not a 'leader.'
A rich thief is a thief....

The world is babbled to pieces after
the divorce of things from their names.
Ceaseless preparation for war
is not peace. health is not procured
by sale of medication, or purity
by the addition of poison. Science
at the bidding of corporations
is knowledge reduced to merchandise;
it is a whoredom of the mind,
and so it the art that calls this, 'progress.'
So is the cowardice that calls it 'inevitable.'

HT: Richard Dahlstrom

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A New Issue in Athletic Competition

An 800-meter race today at the track and field world championships in South Africa has brought with it new problems for the athletic community worldwide. Caster Semenya, an 18 year old female runner from South Africa, crushed her competition by 2.45 seconds, an alarming victory in this rather short race. Following the race, the world track and field federation requested that Semenya be put to a gender test. She has seemingly lived as a female for all of her life, but genetically may not be eligible to race in the female category. The tests are quite extensive and time consuming, so the results will not be ready for quite some time.

Until the tests results are received, the committee is unsure about what to do, but this instance does raise awareness of an issue that may become more prevalent in a culture of increasing gender reassignment. I would guess there will be no gray area if fraud is involved, where people are trying to gain an advantage through said surgeries, but we all can imagine other scenarios that would not be as black and white. It will be interesting to see how the athletic world deals with this and other issues, perhaps setting precidents for how the rest of the world will respond. wrote an informative article about Semenya recentely, that you can find HERE.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Wish This Weren't True

Once again, another prophetic word from ASBO Jesus. It's unfortunate that the place that ought to be the most gracious is too often the least forgiving, inviting, and accepting.

HT: The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus

Simply Amazing...

Check out this video for some amazing feats of athleticism. This is good stuff.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm Back

Hey everyone. I was just looking at the date of my last post and it has been exactly one month since I last wrote on here. I can't believe it. I was so regular and consistent for so long that it feels strange to have not been frequently writing.

As you can imagine, this summer has been incredibly busy. I'm assuming the same schedule faced you all over the past few months, though. Since I last wrote I have spent 2 weeks in Montana, a week with Mandy's family here in Seattle, and a week trying to finish all my summer course work before the fall semester begins. I have had so much fun in all I've done, but it has still been insanely stressful and time-absorbing. It feels good be typing these words, knowing that my life is finally slowing toward regularity and routine. It feels good to breathe deep once again, knowing that the coming week brings no deadlines or timelines, but simply a chance to rest and relax.

Our first week in Montana was spent at Templed Hills Baptist Camp near Yellowstone National Park. This is the camp I grew up going to as a kid, and now they had me back to be the camp pastor for the week. In addition to speaking each night, we rock climbed, hiked, and white-water rafted. The week was an amazing time of experiencing God and spending time with some of our best friends. What a blessing. The second week in Montana was spent at my family's cabin near Glacier National Park. This is one of my favorite places in the whole world, so I always cherish our times there with my family. Two days after returning to Seattle, Mandy's mom, dad, and sister came to visit us. They were here for a week and were able to see most of what makes Seattle special. It was so great to have them here, but once they were gone I had to quickly get to work on 3 projects that were due within the next week in order to finish my summer courses. I finished the last project this afternoon and am basking in my temporary freedom.

Finishing that project brings my first year of graduate school to a close. I can't believe that a year has past since we were comfortably living our lives in Sioux Falls, SD. So much has changed. We are completely different than the people we once were. It is quite surreal to think about all that God has called us out of, in to, and through. I thank God that we chose to listen and follow. This has been quite the ride and really takes my breath away to be reminded of God's goodness and faithfulness. I pray we continue to listen and follow for years to come. I can't imagine life any other way.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Fav Comes to Seattle

My absolute favorite musician in the world is Mat Kearney. He is an incredibly talented singer, great guitar player, and amazing song-writer, and he is performing in Seattle on November 2. I could not be more excited. I've probably listened to his cd "Nothing Left to Lose" a hundred times since it first came out and am well on my way toward surpassing that number with his new album "City of Black and White." Both are simple amazing and worth the money spent to add them to your music collection.

In addition to getting to see him, I am totally geeked about the seats I bought. I think I must have been one of the first to buy tickets because Mandy, my friend David, and I will be sitting front and center in the first balcony. These are probably the best seats in the entire theater, overlooking the stage from about 30 feet away. Now the only problem I have created for myself is that having to wait until November to see him is going to drive me crazy. This picture is the view from our seats at The Moore Theater in Seattle.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some Christian Controversy

One of my favorite musicians over the past few years has been Derek Webb. He became relatively popular through being one of the founding members of Caedmon's Call, but has been doing solo work now for about 5 years.

Derek is a prophet for our current church culture, and has been criticized in similar ways as many of our biblical prophets. His lyrics have a beautiful way of calling out the negative issues of the church while still revealing his obvious belief in, and hope for, the church. Musically, he could probably be categorized as a bluegrass singer/songwriter, with powerful lyrics and strong acoustic guitar.

His newest album, Stockholm Syndrome, has received a great deal of scrutiny. Musically, this cd is a departure from his usual style, incorporating various genres of music including dance beats and a 50's doo-wop ballad called "Frankie, Please." The primary criticism has been aimed at the song "What Matters More." The song is critical of Christian culture for saying they affirm certain things but not backing up their words with real, practical actions, for not giving a "shit" about the "50,000 people who die everyday." Obviously it is the use of that sort of language that is receiving the negative press. I highly recommend this album and any other work that Derek Webb has done. His music has greatly impacted my life and challenged the way I approach the church and ministry. Enjoy this video of "What Matters Most."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

God of Justice

I recently stumbled upon a new blogger that has quickly made his way into my blogroll. I was fascinated by his thoughts on the new Derek Webb cd (which is great by the way...check it out) but was simply amazed by his post on justice. Check out the blog entry HERE and enjoy this video of the song "God of Justice" by Tim Hughes, which has become my new favorite worship song over the past few weeks.

HT: Brad Ruggles

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tony Blair on Globalization

Tony Blair recently made some comments about our current era of globalization that are helpful as we think about engagement with our neighbors world-wide. You can find the the full speech HERE. The following is a helpful quotation from the speech:

And this is why we need to ask ourselves whether the present form of globalization is entirely appropriate, given the circumstances confronting us. I mean there are, clearly, benefits, but we need to ask whether it requires adaptation so that it also enables, as it were, globalization from the bottom up. This, after all, is the way Nature operates! It grows things from the roots up, not from the sky down. At the moment we operate under a form of globalization that tends to render down all the rich diversity of a culture into a uniform, homogenized mono-culture. And this is where the Modernist paradigm needs to be called into question before the damage being done is irretrievable…

HT: Brian McLaren

A Word of Warning

"All Revolutions Devour Their Own Children"

~Ernst Rohm

I find myself wrestling with this incredibly enlightening thought. Throughout history, as revolutions arise and individuals fight for personal and communal freedoms, they leave in their wake the coming generation, their children. As the mother is fighting for her right to vote (a noble cause), the children are left at home fending for themselves. As a black father marches the streets toward liberty for his people (something worth fighting for), his children wonder why they are home alone again.

Of course I'm using hyperbole, but I find myself wanting to balance this tension between fighting for justice and peace in this world while still seeing my ultimate ministry as being toward my family. As I prepare to someday pastor a community, I must wrestle with not neglecting those closest to me while trying to make an impact in my community. What would it look like to care for the world and properly love my neighbor without harming my family and the future of my children in the process?

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Ultimate Obsession

The past few years have brought with them a deep love for the sport of rock climbing. I don't talk about that love much on here but I experienced a personal-best this past week that could not go un-noted. Last Thursday I climbed my first ever 5.12. I realize this doesn't mean much for most of you, but it really is quite an accomplishment for me. I have been climbing 5.11s for about a year, but had not yet conquered the seemingly impossible goal of a 5.12. I find it hard to explain to people, but the joy and ecstasy that comes from finally sending a route I've been working on is beyond compare. Here is a video I compiled last fall that includes pictures and video of me and my friend David climbing both outside and in the gym where I work.

A Quick Update

I realize I haven't blogged much lately and probably won't be blogging much for quite some time, so I thought I would just let everyone know why. My life has been crazy busy lately. I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan last week for a preaching conference that Rob Bell sponsored. The conference was amazing! There is so much that I continue to process and I promise I will share much of what I learned on here in time.

This week I am swamped with a week-long intensive class on Philosophy from Plato to Kant. Class is Monday through Thursday, 10am-6pm each day. I am also busy preparing for a high school church camp in Montana where I am the camp speaker this coming week. I will be speaking each evening, so I am writing 5 different sermons around the theme of 'Bold Humility.'

The day the camp ends I will be singing at my cousin's wedding in Butte, MT, and then its off to our cabin near Glacier National Park for a week of rest and relaxation. The cabin is such an enchanting place where we spend a lot of time hiking, rafting, picking huckleberries, and often, simply doing nothing. I can't wait. Needless to say, though, I won't be frequenting this site much until August, so don't expect much from me. Grace and peace.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Creative Re-Mix

My favorite musical artist over the past 2-3 years has been Mat Kearney. He's a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville but is originally from Oregon. He has an incredible voice, plays some great guitar, and his lyrics have been deeply meaningful to me. The following video is a creative rendition of his great song "Closer to Love", the highlight of his new cd "City of Black and White." Enjoy!

A Night Well Spent

Mandy and I saw a movie this weekend that I am officially recommending to all of you. We watched "The Soloist" on Saturday and both loved the film. Jamie Fox plays a schizophrenic, homeless musician who attended Julliard at one point but was forced to quit because of his mental illness. His primary instrument is the cello, but as the movie begins he is playing a beat-up violin with only 2 strings. The plot unfolds around an LA Times columnist (played by Robert Downey Jr.) writing an article about the man, and the friendship that ultimately forms between both men. Downey's character gets the man off the street and playing cello again, serving to greatly influence his life and health.

The movie offers much insight into the life of extreme poverty in a major city. We see homelessness constantly in Seattle, but it is nothing compared with the sort of poverty displayed in "The Soloist." Each day is a struggle to survive both the pangs of hunger and the threat of physical harm. The film also helped me better understand how terrible schizophrenia must be. There is a scene in the middle of the movie where the audience can almost physically feel the confusion and annoyance that must be constantly present with this awful disorder. Overall, the movie had great acting, a compelling story, taught me so much about life on the streets, and left me inspired to seek change for the people I encounter each day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Tragic End for the King of Pop

I debated whether to add yet another Michael Jackson post to the blogosphere, but I couldn't help but unload a few thoughts. I grew up idolizing MJ. I can remember sitting on our basement couch with my best friend Ryan listening to the "Bad" cd for hours. I can remember my amazement at seeing the "Thriller" music video for the first time ever, captivated by Michael's dance moves and creativity. I even dressed as Michael for Halloween one year in grade school, white glove and all (sorry no picture included...but I'm sure my mom has it somewhere).

Michael Jackson served as a pioneer in the music and entertainment industry. Without his innovative breakthroughs, popular music in its current form would cease to exist. Without MJ, you have no Justin Timberlake, NSync, Backstreet Boys, and so many others. I'm not sure you can watch a Jackson music video and not tap your toe and think dancing is cool. He has meant so much to so many people.

The tragedy of the story, however, seems to be in the inward, mental, and emotional battles Michael must have been waging. Maybe more than anyone we've ever seen, he wore this war outwardly, as we all watched his physical appearance morph throughout different seasons of his story. Its hard to imagine that a man admired and emulated by so many could feel so inadequate in his own skin. The following video seems to capture well these battles he was waging. My thoughts are on MJ and his family today as they grieve this terrible situation.

Michael Jackson from taynjaymyangels on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Irony of the MHGS Location, Pt. 2

As promised, the second strange irony of the location of the school I attend comes in the street it is on. In the midst of the greatest financial crisis our country has faced in over 60 years, I find myself studying at a school squarely resting on "Wall Street." That's right...Mars Hill Graduate School, on the corner of Elliott and Wall.

I recently heard some statistics about the city of Detroit, that: they have a 23% unemployment rate, that 30% of the city is on food stamps, and that 1 million people have already left the city. While these numbers are certainly inflated due to problems in the auto industry, they do help us see the crisis our nation currently faces. It only seems fitting that while New York's Wall Street is frantically searching for answers to life's problems, we sit on Seattle's Wall Street dreaming of new ways that the world might find redemption and restoration. It seems that America's predominant story of individualism and greed has finally proved itself inept and it appears time that a new story, a counter-narrative of community and self-sacrifice, spring up in its place. I count it a blessing to have this opportunity to study and dream, to wonder about how the Kingdom of God might invade this world.

As people scramble for any way to feed their families, the church must become a place of refuge, a place of hope, a place to find real, tangible answers to life's real, tangible problems. As the elders of our community prepare for retirement but are forced to realize that this is no longer an option because their 401k has tanked, communities of faith must step into their God-given roles of being a voice for the voiceless and the marginalized, the widow and the orphan. And as our country is faced with an onslaught of doubt about the future, followers of Christ must balance the tension between being sympathetic to these real fears while being hopeful and proactive about creating a new future for this world, a new heaven and a new earth here in this place.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Irony of the MHGS Location, Pt. 1

The school I attend, Mars Hill Graduate School (MHGS), sits in a beautiful area of downtown Seattle, just one block from the water, overlooking the Puget Sound. I couldn't be happier that its location allows me to walk the streets of Seattle each day, taking in the diversity a downtown metropolis has to offer. Until a few years ago the school was located in a business complex in Bothell, a suburb of Seattle. I cannot imagine studying in any other building than the one we are currently in. It would just not be the same.

At the same time, too, the location has a number of different ironies that make it an intriguing place to do seminary (more on the second irony in an upcoming post). Mars Hill sits sandwiched in location between an upscale hotel and a non-profit organization that reaches out to Seattle's homeless and poverty-stricken population. To our west we are faced with the wealth of our country, and to the east, the poverty. We find ourselves in the middle, trying to navigate life in this ever-increasing gap.

This is definitely an interesting tension to have to balance. As I spend these three years preparing for a life of vocational ministry, I must be willing to step into this often awkward tension that has been created in our society. As a pastor, will I be willing to walk this tightrope? Will I not let the rich of my congregation sleep easily in their greed and selfish ambition, but be strong in calling them to new levels of devotion to God, especially monetarily? With the poor in our community, will I be gracious and compassionate, but yet strong in calling forth hard work and dedication in producing sustainable living for themselves and their families? And most importantly, will I help lead the kind of community where both sides of the coin (pun intended) feel welcomed to the conversation? Will we produce dialogue amongst us that asks challenging questions and seeks hard answers, but ultimately leads to an active pursuit of justice and peace in our world?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Are We Doing?!?

I don't talk about sports much on this site, but they really are quite an obsession for me. NFL football has become a deep passion of mine over the past few years, but I am nervous about the coming season. As a long-time, die-hard Denver Bronco fan, this offseason has been absolutely, incredibly terrible. Coming off the disappointment of last season, where we lost the last 3 games of the season to blow a 3-game lead in the division and miss the playoffs, I was hoping for a promising offseason of rebuilding. I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

The changes started quickly with the firing of long-time head coach, Mike Shanahan, and the hiring of rookie coach, Josh McDaniels. The blockbuster of bonehead moves came soon after with the trading of Pro-Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. A few weeks later the team wasted all the great picks they received in the Cutler trade by having a terrible draft, and now they are on the verge of trading away their best wide receiver, Pro-Bowler Brandon Marshall.

I cannot believe the breakdown that has happened within the Bronco organization and I am preparing myself for the weekly devastation I will experience as I watch my team getting slaughtered by each opponent they face. Needless to say I'm worried about the weekly depression I will sink into on Sunday afternoons. Why do the Broncos feel the need to ruin my Sabbath (and my life)?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Creating God In Our Image

When I saw this cartoon I instantly thought of the quote I've heard a number of times before that "God created us in His own image and we repaid the favor." I think this happens far too often, that we create a god in our own image, asking Him to be whatever we want him to be, rather than who Scripture says he is.

Who Gets Blessed?

A large piece of my practical theology is that the people of God, the church, are called to be a blessing to the world. With that in mind, as I enter the world with the desire to further the Kingdom of God, I often find myself asking what it looks like to be a blessing in that specific situation. The people of God often fail to be good news to the world and must once again make this a priority in its ministry.

While this posture of engaging the world is incredibly important, the draw back to this line of thinking is that it tends to emphasize that I am the one one doing the blessing, and never the one being blessed. I was reminded of this yesterday as I rode the bus. As I engaged in conversation with the woman sitting next to me, I was the one who ultimately felt loved and cared for. She seemed to actually care about who I was on a deeper level than just what I do. Her example of care and concern for others has deeply impacted me.

While it is incredibly important to enter the world with a desire to bless, I pray that God would continue to open my eyes to the myriad of things He wants to teach me. As I dialogue with others, may my heart and mind truly be open to learning from and being blessed by the other and much as I desire to teach and bless them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not As Handy as I Thought

For a number of days now I have noticed the awkwardness of trying to get into the refrigerator in our pro-shop at the rock climbing gym I work at...the door swings the wrong way. I have had to switch the way the refrigerator door swings in almost every home we have lived in (they have always been easy to switch), so this morning I took the initiative to change ours at the gym. Needless to say, the project was more than I could handle.

It took me getting the entire door unmounted to realize that I had bitten off more than I could chew. This project was going to take far longer than I thought it would, but since I was this far already, I proceeded. After getting the door remounted the opposite way, it would not completely close. No matter what I did I could not get the door to seal. So, to make a long story short, I was forced to undo everything I had done and put the door back the way it was in the beginning. I even had to cut a little piece of plastic off the door to get it to work right again.

I like to think of myself as pretty handy, but I proved my incapabilities this morning. In the words of another co-worker who helped me out in the process of reassembling the fridge, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Good advice I guess.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Funny Commentary from Colbert

While watching the Colbert Report this morning, Stephen was once again brilliant in his comedic and prophetic way of drawing attention to the world's news. Enjoy this clip from the show.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
ThreatDown - Charity, Casual Jesus & Robot Teachers
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorKeyboard Cat

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Much Needed Reminder...

I was reminded of these powerful words today in my Multicultural Issues class and thought I would share them with you. So very helpful.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~Marianne Williamson (and quoted by Nelson Mandela)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Funny Christian Album Covers

With the help of Pete Rollins's blog, I came across a website that has incredibly funny album covers from old Christian bands. These things are stinkin' hilarious. I've included a few to pique your interest, but see the rest of them HERE.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Paradox of Life Through Death

Life is full of paradox. Scripture understands this well and speaks of it constantly. Light out of darkness. Freedom out of bondage. Greatness out of servitude. Perhaps the most paradoxical of all this sort of thinking, however, is oddity of life springing forth from death. I find myself thinking about this idea a lot lately. With Spring upon us, we are all well aware of the blooms of life that are emerging from the death of winter. For months we have waited for the sun to shine and the flowers to bloom, but we must not forget that these only come through the pains of winter.

I wonder what this idea means for the church in the midst of our current post-modern, post-colonial, post-Christendom culture. As the church moves into this new and emerging way of engaging Scripture and the world, how does it balance the tension between old and new paradigms? As Max Planck has brilliantly pointed out, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

While I wish Planck weren't right. I fear he is. Paradigms don't shift. Old ones just die while new ones rise up and dance on their grave. The church has not done especially well in honoring those who have gone before us while still progressing toward what lies ahead. I wonder what it might look like for the new paradigm to care for the old one, bury it properly, and adequately mourn its loss? What would it look like to treat those ideas that have gone before with honor and dignity, learning from their wisdom and insight, while still moving forward faithfully? As a future pastor, how will I hold the tension between knowing that the church must look different than it did for my grandparents, while still treating that generation with the dignity and respect they are due?

Monday, May 18, 2009

An Incredible Weekend

It has been so much fun lately with the summer weather we have had here in Seattle. This weekend was incredible, as Friday afternoon I left Seattle with 2 friends to go camping and rock climbing on the Columbia River near Vantage, WA. We camped out Friday night and rock climbed all day on Saturday. It was such a great time of getting away and enjoying the outdoors.

Then today, following a great service at our church, I headed downtown to watch the Mariners play the Boston Red Sox. I was excited about the game since the Red Sox have such a good team with many notable players, and the game did not disappoint. The Mariners entered the bottom of the 9th inning tied 2-2 before Franklin Gutierrez hit a walk-off single to drive in the winning run. The weather was great, the crowd was pumped, and there really isn't anything else like the feeling of live professional sports. What a weekend!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Pains of Pastoring

I chuckled when I saw this cartoon this other day, and hope that my career in vocational ministry never reaches this point.

HT: Naked Pastor

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Seth Godin on TRIBES

I just watched this video this morning and loved Seth's thoughts on tribes. He is not specifically talking about church community, but I think his thoughts definitely apply to this area of our culture. As I think about leading a faith community in the future, I hope that these sorts of thoughts permeate our group's thinking. I understand that this is a long video (17+ minutes) but it is well worth your time.

HT: The Corner

Awkward Questions about Jesus

This is a hilarious clip from a British comedy show called Outnumbered. The questions these kids ask are incredibly funny.

HT: Brian McLaren

Friday, May 8, 2009

So Far So Good

I have just started my summer trimester here at Mars Hill Graduate School and it has been good so far. Throughout the summer I will have 3 different intensive classes (class all day, every day for a week) which will be tiring, but I only have one class that extends throughout the entire term: Hebrew Language.

I was worried about hating the class, the topic, and the style of learning (memory as opposed to deep thought), but it has been great so far. It is fun learning this new language and I will truly be blessed in my future sermon preparation because of this information I am gleaning now.

Yesterday in class, we learned 4% of the Hebrew Bible by learning the phrase "And the Lord said" (vayyomer YHVH). I was surprise that this one phrase constitutes 4% of the Old Testament text, but it makes sense when you consider that the Hebrew scriptures are the written documentation of God's ongoing relationship with God's people. It's telling a tale, writing out a dialogue between God and the people of Israel.

I'll let you know how the remainder of the term is going. I hope I continue to enjoy this work and can rest and relax this summer before another hectic year beginning this fall.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Great Week So Far

So far my time in Sioux Falls has consisted of great time with friends, tons of food, and a multitude of fun activities. So far my schedule has included golfing, disc golf, playing hockey, rock climbing, and bowling...with a similar schedule planned for the rest of the week. Let's just say that I needed this sort of week after this past trimester.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Plans for Next Week

I probably won't be writing much on here for the next week, so I wanted to let you know why. Mandy and I fly out of Seattle tomorrow morning en route to Sioux Falls. One of my best friends, Nate, is getting married next weekend, so we will are going back to good ol' South Dakota for a week of spending time with our old friends. After a really long trimester of classes, I can't wait for a week of doing nothing...of just rock climbing, disc golfing, eating great food, and hanging out with my best friends in the whole world. Talk to you all soon. Grace and peace.

Helpful Thoughts on Loving Your Neighbor

Shane Claiborne (author, speaker, & founder of The Simple Way) has recently co-authored a list of 50 practical ways we could better love our neighbors. This list was very helpful to read through I will continue to pray about what things God might be calling me, my family, and our house to in the coming months. The following are the first 10 things on the list:

1. Fast for the 2 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.
2. Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and invite a pregnant woman to live with your family.
3. Ask your pastor if someone on your church’s sick list would like a visit.
4. Join an open AA meeting and befriend someone there.
5. Adopt a child.
6. Mow your neighbor’s grass.
7. Volunteer to tutor a kid at your local elementary school. (Try to get to know the kid’s family.)
8. Grow your own tomatoes – and share them.
9. Ask a small group in your community to meet regularly for intercessory prayer.
10. Build a wheel chair ramp for someone who is homebound.

Click HERE for numbers 11-50.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Needed Way of Thinking

Too often the church glamorizes and idolizes its pastors, serving to devalue the Kingdom of Priests who do the real work of being the hands and feet of Christ in the real world. I cringe each time I see someone serious about their faith pushed by someone else (usually a pastor) into vocational ministry. This is right for some (I plan on making this my career), but not for all. I always used to tell my youth group that we didn't need more pastors in this world, but that we needed more doctors, lawyers, plumbers, teachers, and construction workers to get serious about following Christ. I appreciate this cartoon from ASBO Jesus to once again remind of this often neglected truth.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No Pets Allowed

Last week, directly following the Good Friday service, I noticed this sign on the property of the school across the street from our church. We had just left an emotional service in complete silence, when suddenly I was cracking up with laughter. I didn't think I should snap a picture at that moment, so this morning after church I captured forever this hilarity. I hope you enjoy! I'm still not sure this sign is sincere, but it sure looks like an official warning against trespassing with your pet, regardless of its breed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rob Bell on Preaching

For those who frequent this site, you probably know that I secretly have a man-crush on Rob Bell. I think he's awesome. I would say, without much hesitation, that he is the best communicator (preacher) I have ever heard. He has a beautiful way of digging into the the text while allowing it to come alive for the congregation in ways that make a difference in the world.

Thus, I am incredibly excited about attending his conference on preaching this summer (July 5-7). The conference is called "Prophets, Poets, & Preachers," and the website calls it a "seminar for those serious about reclaiming the art of the sermon." I believe that preaching has a unique way of instilling hope and calling forth change, and I am passionate about learning to become a better communicator of the gospel. I heard one lecture on preaching from Rob a few years ago and it radically altered the way I thinking about sermon preparation, so I am eagerly anticipating the incredible insight Rob will have to offer during the 3-day conference. Click HERE for more information.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reality TV at its Best

With but a few exceptions, I tend to avoid Reality TV, seeing very little entertainment value or benefit in the genre. Every so often, though, this type of programming provides a stage (sometimes literally) for those who have never had a shot. This video serves as a voice for the voiceless, offering an opportunity to shine for one woman who has, no doubt, been ostracized and marginalized her entire life. YouTube has disabled the embed function on this video, but please follow the following link to hear Susan Boyle amaze the crowd, the judges, and the world on "Britain's Got Talent."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Honest Wrestling

I hesitate in writing this post for fear that the readers, especially my close family and friends, will begin to worry about me "going off the deep end" at this "liberal" seminary, but lately I have been honestly wrestling with whether EVERYONE is included in salvation (i.e. everyone goes to heaven). Don't worry, I'm not a universalist--but I do find myself battling the tension between the seemingly endless grace of God and Jesus' periodic messages of exclusion. Its sticky. Its confusing. Its not black and white. And to make it a black and white issue, on either end of the spectrum, is to deny either the radical grace or the extreme justice of our God. As I continue to read through Brian McLaren's book "The Secret Message of Jesus," however, McLaren has begun to give me new language around this tricky topic, a starting point to begin the discussion. He says:

The kingdom of God...seeks a third way: not exclusiveness and rejection on the one hand, and not foolish, self-sabotaging inclusion on the other hand, but rather purposeful inclusion. In other words, the kingdom of God seeks to include all who want to participate in and contribute to its purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose its purpose.

No wonder this third way seems paradoxical: to be truly inclusive, the kingdom must exclude exclusive people; to be truly reconciling, the kingdom must not reconcile with those who refuse reconciliation; to achieve its purpose of gathering people, it must not gather those who scatter.

On the one hand, if you start expanding the borders and working for a God-centered inclusive and reconciling network of relationships, you will quickly find that there are plenty of people willing to insult you, imprison you, torture you, and kill you.

On the other hand, if you try to include those people who oppose your inclusive purpose, then your kingdom is divided against itself, and it will be ruined. So what do you do? If you're Jesus, you take whatever space you are given and let God's kingdom be made visible and real there.

McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, 167-169

These words were so powerful to me as I read, and I look forward to the ongoing thought and discussion that will happen around these ideas. It seems to me that you aren't being very inclusive if you force inclusion upon those who wish to be excluded.

Almost Done...

3 more papers. After an incredibly long trimester, I am down to my final 3 papers before getting a week-long break prior to the summer trimester. I can't wait. Each trimester of seminary we have had one week off as a "reading week" where we can get caught up on our homework, but the reading week this trimester was too early in the term to be useful. So now all the major work has stacked up into the final few weeks, leaving me exhausted.

I will be spending my break in Sioux Falls at one of my best friend's wedding (Nate). It will be so great to see my friends, do some rock climbing with David and Joel, eat some Buffalo Wild Wings, and finally have a chance to breathe deeply again. Nate's bachelor party involves the rental of a sky box for a Minnesota Twins game at the Metrodome in fun. It will be such a blessing to get away and relax for a week. But for now...3 more papers.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hope of the Resurrection

"Do not abandon yourself to despair.
We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song."

~Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

The Taming of God

We, in the church, have a tendency toward taming God, making God seem more comfortable and controlled than radical, dangerous, and unpredictable. When we look at the actual words of Jesus, they call his followers to a revolutionary way of life that will definitely leave them outcasted by normal society, and possibly leave them dead. I don't think it is a strange coincidence that all but one of the 12 disciples (John), plus Paul and many others, end up losing their lives for the sake of the good news of Christ. The gospel is dangerous. The gospel gets people in trouble. The gospel speaks a radically political message of rejecting the status quo. The gospel must always lead us toward the end of our existence as a way of experiencing true life. That's its nature.

Yet, we resist danger and uncomfort at all costs. We avoid the chaos of the cross like the plague. Even in a country that generally embraces the Christian faith, we find ourselves terrified at the thought of taking the message of Jesus seriously. It asks all of us. It asks for control of our words and our actions and our time and our money. It demands we re-think everything, that we take up our cross and embrace death as a path toward life. That's daunting.

But what if we did it? What if we caught a glimpse of the fullness of life that comes when the Kingdom of God crashes into this world, into our everyday lives? What if we willingly sacrificed everything, trusting God's word that we'll receive far more in our submission than our resistence, self-preservation, and greed? What if we truly lived into the beautiful paradox that the last will be first and the first will be last, that the greatest in the Kingdom of God are the least? What if we finally took God at God's word, trusting it is good and beautiful and just, capable of thwarting evil and pain and injustice?

Drive-Thru Church

h/t: Naked Pastor