Monday, December 28, 2009

Pre-Emptive Reflections On Survey Results

At Old Hickory, we have been in the process of taking a congregational survey designed by LifeWay Research for the purpose of analyzing the spiritual pulse of our congregation. More specifically, by participating in the worship, classes, and additional projects at our congregation, are people experiencing genuine spiritual transformation?

I am anxious to see how the results turned out. One thing that I've noticed, being on the administrative end of the survey, is that it is amazing how many variant interpretations people can have of the same questions. Some have taken it with no problems, but others have really struggled to understand the terminology used in several of the questions. As we've wondered how many people actually took the survey--they could have taken it online--we've gotten feedback ranging from extremely pleased to extremely perturbed by the process. Something Don and I were talking about today is how there's bound to be something good about the fact that we've tried to give people an open venue to share their thoughts with us. Even if they didn't give their thoughts, they won't be able to say that we haven't been willing to hear what they have to say.

One area that this survey has brought to my attention is the function of worship services. Lots of their questions centered around what we did with our worship services. I guess my underlying question is, "What is the purpose of worship services?" For teaching? For evangelism? For edification? For fun?

One of my professors, Dr. David Fleer suggests that good preaching (and good worship services) should have three aspects present, which he draws from Cicero; a master rhetorician. These elements are teaching, pleasing, and persuading. I am not here trying to make a doctrinal statement, but rather a stylistic statement. Aside from the question of what elements should be present in worship, how can we use these elements in a way that impacts people?

He had a quote, and I may not be remembering it correctly, but it was basically, "To teach is a necessity, to please is a sweetness, to persuade is a victory." In worship, it is crucial that true things are expressed about God and how he relates to our lives. It's wonderful if people learn, and it's even better if they find the sermon--and the rest of the worship--an enjoyable experience. But if by their presence, they are genuinely convicted to make a decision, or to live differently in some way, then we will have had a real spiritual victory resulting from our assembly.

I think churches are unwise to ignore any of these elements. If no real teaching happens, then church is nothing more than entertainment, and it has lost its teeth, as well as its ability to retain members once they are bored with the routine. Some people are too quick to dismiss the aspect of emotion in assemblies, saying that it is just entertainment, or that spirituality is somehow different than emotion. But God gave us hearts, and we need to hear stories and have experiences that draw our hearts through the whole range of our emotions. A completely stoic worship service with only dry, intellectual preaching is ignoring a vital part of our being. Some prefer an experience that involves fun and learning, but no "meddling." They want interesting sermons with applications about helping people in third world countries, but not about anything that I have to do differently this afternoon in how I treat my own family and friends. They like the routine of church, and punching a heavenly time card, but they are not interested in really being challenged. I believe in all three of the areas I've listed, if we don't give them their due place, sincere Christian people will feel the lack of what is not there.

I think the responses we get from folks about their attendance here will probably illuminate our strengths and weaknesses in each of these three aspects. Are we helping them to grow in wisdom and discernment? Are we inviting them into experiences which touch their hearts in new and challenging ways? Are we making high enough expectations of their lives outside of the assemblies?

We should find out soon. I pray that we'll do what's right in how we move forward.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Disney Recycling

I found this video very interesting. I'm sure I would hate to have to come up with entirely new material all the time, but it's almost unnerving how much animation from Disney movies has been used more than once.

Those of you viewing on Facebook, click "View Original Post" to see it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This is bound to impact your life in the not-so-distant future

Everyone likes to imagine 'the future'. Generally, this results in low-quality science fiction with flying cars, impossibly great technology in unrealistic formats, etc. But every once in a while I see something and think to myself, "This could really change the way we live."

Cellphones are one such item. I get so tickled now when I watch the old Commando film, and the bad guy is running from "Ah-nuld," looking for a payphone, where he is desperately hunting for a quarter to make a phone call. That scene couldn't possibly work today. Then there were pagers. But now, I regularly hear about people's 9 year olds getting their own cell phones. Many of my friends don't even have home phones anymore.

On a side note, I'm still convinced that pocket projectors will potentially have a big impact as they continue to be more affordable.

But now for the latest...


I've been hearing for a while that scientists were getting very, very close to developing wireless charging technology for devices.

At this point, as I understand it, the issue is no longer how much people can fit into a small device, but rather, how can we find better ways to power the devices? Batteries are getting some better, but they still cannot sustain most devices for extended periods of time.

This Powermat is a step in what I consider a likely future for our electronic devices. If we can't find a better way to make a battery, we can at least find a better way to recharge them. There is already technology to make recharges much faster than they used to be, but I think an even better direction will be if they can develop more advanced wireless charging technology.

It appears with the Powermat that you have to purchase the mat, which distributes the charge, and a receiver for each object you want to enable to receive the charge. You receive the charge by laying the device on the mat, without any need for wires.

It looks cool, but I think before too long they will get better at actually sending out a signal, more similar to a wireless router, so that devices within the general proximity which are capable of being charged wirelessly will automatically receive the charging signal. While you sit at your desk, or even talk on your phone, when you are close to the recharging dock, your phone will begin recharging without you even having to think about it. I imagine people pushing for access to recharging in a way similar to how people now push for their to be numerous public wifi hotspots.

I see this as pragmatic enough to warrant the money and time that will have to be spent to continue the development. I don't see any reason why I would ever need a flying car, but for my electronics to recharge without any need for cords and cables? That would be worth having, even if it had a bit of a hefty price tag.

What do you think?


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Persian Influence and Israelite Apocalypticism


Perhaps all I'm really doing is embarrassing myself, but I just hate to think that I would spend days of my life researching a topic, and then the only person I would ever share my discoveries with would be my professor.

I know the thought has been burning in your mind: "Why, with the similarities of a metaphysical dualism, a deterministic world view, a complex system of both angelology and demonology, and fully developed ideas of resurrection and judgment, surely the post-exilic Jews must have gotten all their apocalyptic ideas from the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism! After all, they lived under Persian rule for 200 years."

If you want my thoughts on the matter, knock yourself out. I don't promise that it is well reasoned or well written. I only affirm that it is my own work.

What's even better is that this means I am FINALLY done with my work for the fall semester, and I'll have a couple of weeks to regroup and start getting ready for spring semester!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Please Think Deeply Before You Jump On The Psalm 109:8 Bandwagon

Perhaps you have already started noticing some stuff pop up, such as shirts and bumper stickers that urges prayer for Obama, with the Scripture reference to Psalm 109:8.

The text of this particular verse states, "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership."

I think many people feel they are being witty, and I'll admit, I enjoy throwing out the occasional proof text for a chuckle. When people ask about the Bible and politics, I get a kick out of quoting Ecclesiastes 10:2.

But when you're going to invoke the Word of God for any purpose, it is only respectful to God to try and use it in the context in which it is intended. And it is for this reason that I would urge my friends to think very hard before jumping on this Psalm 109 campaign.

Psalm 109 is an imprecatory Psalm, which means it is written by an Israelite, begging God to bring vengeance towards an enemy of David and/or Israel. I think God has given us the Psalms to help us know healthy ways to process our full range of emotions, and it isn't any accident that so many of the Psalms are dealing with feelings of fear, sadness, or longing for the presence of God. But in Psalms like this, we see that when we've been betrayed, we give our problems to God, and trust him to do what is best.

But having said all that, let's get back to the issue at hand. I would suggest that if you don't care for President Obama, it is 100% fine to disagree with his policies, to question some of his associations, and to have frustrations over whatever he is doing with which you disagree. But to start invoking Psalm 109, it is important to be sure that you--as a Christian--want to wish these types of things on anyone; much less the President; especially if you are going to put it on your clothing or the bumper of your car, telling others to do the same. The fact that humor is implied makes this a particularly low blow.

The Psalm includes wishes for the person's wife to be widowed, and for his children to be impoverished, homeless beggars whose possessions have all been seized by creditors. Even if you hold Obama in very low esteem, it is still important to remember the way Christ treated us when we deserved to be held by God in very low esteem.

Let's not forget verses like Matthew 7:2:
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

I will readily acknowledge that I have some very strong concerns about our current president. I didn't vote for him, and I'd love to have someone in office who shares my Christian worldview, and who believes in a form of Government more like the vision that I have. I never thought the day would come where I would miss Bill Clinton. I'm not an Obama fan. But I feel like this Psalm 109:8 campaign involves a misuse of Scripture, and shows an attitude that is not becoming of Christians. Christ could forgive the people who crucified him. Can you really say you're trying to live your life in the image of Christ while urging people to pray for God to destroy a man's life and family? Are you prepared for God to use the same measure of judgment on you that you are using for others?

I'm not saying it isn't okay to criticize and disagree, but I think this campaign is going too far. Pray that he will seek God above all else. Pray that he will repent of what he's done wrong. Pray for our nation, and for all nations, that they would turn to God. But don't actively pray to God wishing harm on someone. Don't use the Bible for a source of vicious humor.

There are many people who have absolutely skewered people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, and I know it's tempting to give Obama a dose of what we've had to put up with. But really, I'm not interested in getting even. When we resort to this sort of venom, we've become just as low as those to whom we are reacting. I'd rather just leave this sort of speech out of the dialog all together. It can only cause harm, and it reflects badly on Christians who participate. I believe that conservatives have plenty of substantive arguments to make without needing this sort of attack.

Those are my $0.02. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody

I never thought I would see a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody that in any way did it justice, but this was worth watching. "Mama...?"



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Help My Friend Leigh Allyn

Rather than make a lengthy post here, I would encourage you to visit the website, where all of the situation is spelled out in detail. But a young lady at my church named Leigh Allyn is far along in her battle with Cystic Fibrosis, and has a couple of reasons for needing extra encouragement right now.

Please stop by the HelpLeeLee website to learn more about how you can be a source of encouragement to her.

Thanks,
Mark

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Perspicacity for the Day: Aesop (c. 550 B.C.)

- Appearances often are deceiving.
- No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
- Familiarity breeds contempt.
- A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
- Be content with your own lot; one cannot be first in everything.
- Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.
- The gods help them that help themselves.
- We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.
- The haft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagle's own plumes. We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Perspicacity for the Day: Solon (638-559 B.C.)

- Many evil men are rich, and good men poor, but we shall not exchange with them our excellence for riches.
- Poets tell many lies.
- I grow old ever learning many things.
- Speech is the image of actions.
- Until he is dead, do not yet call a man happy, but only lucky.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Perspicacity for the Day: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

- Soldiers, from the summit of yonder pyramids forty centuries look down upon you.
- Go, sir, gallop, and don't forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like, except time.
- A form of government that is not the result of a long sequence of shared experiences, efforts, and endeavors can never take root.
- You write to me that it's impossible; the word is not French.
- The bullet that will kill me is not yet cast.
- Madame Montholon having inquired what troops he considered the best, "Those which are victorious, Madame," he replied.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: Halloween Costume

We can't get Nacho to keep her "costume" on very long, but she's always willing to pose for a couple of pictures. Hope you all have had a nice Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Perspicacity for the Day: Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

- Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.
- When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.
- A bad cause will ever be supported by bad means and bad men.
- These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserve the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated.
- A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Perspicacity for the Day: Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

- If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
- No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
- Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we under stand it.
- This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.
- I feel somewhat like the boy in Kentucky who stubbed his toe while running to see his sweetheart. The boy said he was too big to cry, and far too badly hurt to laugh.
- Common-looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.
- If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Perspicacity for the Day: Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

- And silence, like a poultice, comes to heal the blows of sound.
- A man has his will--but woman has her way!
- Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust.
- Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.
- Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor.
- I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: to reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it--but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.

Monday, October 05, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: Sleepy In Cold Weather

Nacho is very active in the summer, but when the weather cools down, she sleeps as much as she can. She was a little agitated that with the wet, cold weather yesterday, there was little for her to do outside. So while I laid there on my bed (you can see my red shorts), she curled up beside me to sleep. Carolina thought it was a Kodak--or in this case, iPhone camera--moment.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Perspicacity for the Day: John Heywood (1497-1580)

John Heywood printed Proverbs in 1546, which is the earliest collection of English colloquial sayings. Many of these quotes should not be contributed to him specifically, though he compiled them into one handy source.

- Haste maketh waste.
- Looke re ye leap.
- The loss of wealth is loss of dirt, as sages in all times assert; the happy man's without a shirt.
- A hard beginning maketh a good ending.
- All is well that ends well.
- All is fish that cometh to net.
- Rome was not built in one day.
- Beggars should be no choosers.
- Three may keep counsel, if two be away.
- Many hands make light work.
- This hitteth the nail on the head.
- I know on which side my bread is buttered.
- Enough is as good as a feast.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Perspicacity for the Day: Robert Burton (1577-1640)

So I haven't done many series of posts in a while. I have a couple of new pictures of Nacho that may make it on here, as well as a few allusions. I thought it might be fun, though, to make a series of posts on Mondays to provide some insights on life, taken from a wide array of people and places. So for a few weeks, I'll pick a person, and give a few of what I consider their best quotes.

I'm going to call this series "Perspicacity for the Day". Perspicacity is a noun form of the adjective perspicacious, which means "having a ready insight into and understanding of things." I hope these morsels will offer some valuable insights, that will help motivate us to live each week with a sense of purpose and empowerment.

Robert Burton (1577-1640)
- Old friends become bitter enemies on a sudden for toys and small offenses.
- Idleness is an appendix to nobility.
- We can make mayors and officers every year, but not scholars.
- A mere madness, to live like a wretch and die rich.
- Birds of a feather will gather together.
- For "ignorance is the mother of devotion," as all the world knows.
- A good conscience is a continual feast.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's Nacho Cat On Me

When Nacho feels like being petted, nothing else is a higher priority for her. This can make reading and compiling research for my papers rather challenging. She will often move the book out of my hand, or at least bite the edges of the pages until I release the book and start scratching her head. In this case, she just hopped on top of my lap desk and sat on what I was reading.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Sermon You Should Go Hear

I'm very excited about October 8th. At the Hermitage, historic home of President Andrew Jackson, they have been having a series of local ministers come to their chapel and present classic sermons by important figures during the Jacksonian era. They're calling it Faiths of the Frontier. On October 8th, from 6:30-8:00pm, David Fleer will be presenting one of Alexander Campbell's sermons titled "The Fearful Curse".

If you've never heard Dr. Fleer, he's an incredible speaker with a lively personality and an endearing, gravely voice. I took him for a preaching course at Lipscomb last semester that might well be the single best class I've ever had.

I plan to be there, and I want to encourage you to mark you calendar if you're in the Nashville area to come and hear Dr. Fleer; especially if you have an interest in the American Restoration Movement.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Awakening the Christ Asleep In You

Augustine of Hippo is one of my favorite people. I love the story of his life, I love his writings, and I love the way he thought. One thing I find very interesting about reading Christian thinkers from different time periods is seeing how their presuppositions determined their conclusions. We're certainly no different.

During the time when Regula Fidei was more in effect, since everyone agreed on what the correct beliefs were supposed to be, they felt free to do some creative allegorical interpretations of Scripture, as long as their conclusions remained within the boundaries of orthodoxy.

I just completed a paper on the function of the Sea of Galilee in Mark, and in researching, I came across a sermon that Augustine preached on the passage about Jesus calming the storm. He took an angle I would have never considered, and though it might not have been Mark's original intended purpose for including this story, I think his thoughts are beneficial.

I have been pondering the role of allegorical applications in preaching. On the one hand, I am very much a student of the mentality that it is our job to understand the text exactly as it was intended to be understood. On the other hand, in churches of Christ, though we don't have an official Regula Fidei for all of us, most of us know pretty well within our congregations what views are considered the orthodox ones and which would be considered heretical. I wonder if it would be helpful or hurtful to make some Scriptural applications that take more liberty with allegorical interpretations--remaining within the boundaries of orthodoxy, in the spirit of writers such as Augustine, or even philosophers like Philo, who has some fascinating ideas about the meaning of Genesis (which I may blog about at some point). I see both potential and peril. It is at least something different.

At any rate, here is part of Augustine's sermon about Matthew 8:23.

When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind. When your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the ship is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering. On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune--shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him....A temptation arises; it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea. This is the moment to awaken Christ and let him remind you of these words: "Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him."


Clearly, this story was not written as an allegory. Christ is revealing his divine nature so that the disciples will gain a deeper understanding of who he is. But the storm situation with the sleeping Christ does make a nice metaphor for relying on Christ for aid in having self-control.

What do you think?

Friday, September 11, 2009

What The Heavens Declare

I think the recent new pictures by the Hubble Space Telescope are astonishing, and worthy of some reflection. Embedded in creation are so many wonderful things to be discovered. Some of them escape our view from their smallness, such as atoms. Others have escaped our view by their vastness, such as the universe. I believe that whenever we encounter something new and astounding in creation, we should take it as a gift from God, and be grateful that his creation is such a wonderful place to explore.

Just imagine what is out there, still remaining to be found and admired.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
-Psalm 19:1

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
-Proverbs 25:2

Though a starry sky was already beautiful to be sure...

















...there is so much more hidden beyond our sight.



Monday, September 07, 2009

We were on TV!

Carolina and I just returned today from our 5th anniversary trip...to New York City! We did a lot of touristy stuff, which I'm sure I'll blog about soon. But a highlight for us was getting to go to the US Open on Friday. What made us even happier was finding on our DVR that we succeeded in getting our faces on TV! Here is proof...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Orwell or Huxley's Vision?

I found this cartoon that compares and contrasts Orwell and Huxley's views of the future, then suggests who was correct. Regardless of which direction we have taken, or which direction we'll continue to take, I believe sincerely practiced Christianity is the solution to the world's problems.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Carolina found Waldo

On Fathers Day, we were eating with my parents at one of those yuppie downtown bistro places for lunch...I think it was called "Sky Blue"...and this guy walked in looking at first like Bob Dylan, but when he put on his regular glasses, Carolina leaned over and told me excitedly, "I just found Waldo!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

...and this afternoon I stopped by all the festivities and got a closer look.

I saw a new Camaro

Right now is a very busy time in Tennessee with the Bonnaroo music festival, as well as the CMA awards happening. Today, when I dropped off Carolina down town I got to see the new Camaro model. Yes, it's a tiny yellow dot in the picture, but I still saw it, and it looked awesome. Maybe this will help get GM back on track a little.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Have you tried the Bible?

I thought this was an interesting clip. I have not read the guy's book, but through his study, he has reached some conclusions that I reached a long time ago. Namely, the Bible is a fascinating book. People who say it's a big boring tome full of rules and genealogies couldn't have possibly read most of it.

As I understand it, this guy decided to read the entire Bible just to see what he was missing out on. His conclusion is that he was missing out on a lot! He tells the story of the beginning of his quest here in the video.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Will you help Spring Meadows Academy?

My friend Dale Jenkins has undertaken some ambitious efforts in helping to plant a congregation in Spring Hill, TN, just south of Nashville in a rapidly growing area. The congregation has been exploding with growth. Part of the original vision for the church was that it would also be connected to a new school that they would also found.

Dale is looking for 2000 people to give $10 so that they can afford playground equipment for the new school, which is scheduled to begin this September.

I am going to help, and I want to encourage you to do the same.

Thanks for your consideration,
Mark
---------------------------
Here is his e-mail:

I'll keep this as brief as possible. I have an idea today and want to see if it can "go viral" but I desperately want your help. YOU are the key to this working. We are needing to buy playground equipment for our our day school that will open in September.

I am looking for 2000 people who will each give $10 to this effort. It's just $10, you can do that. And just as important I need you to help me find those 2000 people. So could you/would you do two very quick things:

1. Send me an email letting me know you will send $10. I don't know who you will get this from after I send it out, so send the email to dale(a t)edge.net (Note: I edited the e-mail so he won't get spammed...please interpret it) - send the money to:
Spring Meadows Academy
2985 Duplex Road
Spring Hill, TN 37174

2. Whether or not you send the $10....PLEASE, PLEASE, forward this on to 25 other people. You know I don't forward a bunch of stuff, but this project is worth the effort. Regardless of who you got it from if you will do that I think we could find 2000 people who would send $10 in less than 24 hours. Let's see if we can. Let's see how far this will go.

Thank you.

In His Care,
Dale Jenkins

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Good Pictures For Power Point

To any of you who are regularly looking for high quality pictures to use for presentations, I want to encourage you to take a look at Wikimedia's Picture of the Day. You can subscribe to it with any feed reader, such as Google Reader, and they have a wide variety of pictures that could come in handy. They are available in high resolution, so they work well for cropping down to whatever parts you want to use.

I think many preachers make the error in using power point of making it be about the words on the screen. They will put the full text of their sermon on the slides, so that the preaching itself becomes almost unnecessary.

The point of using a visual aid is for it to be visual. Minimize words, and maximize the use of powerful images, such as the ones found here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Hebrew Lesson From Dr. Spock

I have seen at least two videos where Leonard Nimoy has surprised me. Interesting fellow.

One is this explanation of his inspiration for the Vulcan salute.



The other is music video about the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. I wish I knew how this came about; it's accurate, yet very weird.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

I can hardly believe it, but I think this is actually a real movie. A movie so stupid, and so ridiculous, that I feel compelled to watch it.

I give you... Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

Can I brag about my dad?

My dad is a very humble, selfless guy. I've never met a person who is less materialistic than him, nor have I met someone who is any more genuine than him. He has always put his faith and our family first. My sister and I are much better people for it. I've see him turn down promotions so that he wouldn't have to spend less time with his family. I grew up not missing a single worship service, except for illnesses. I have many memories of walking into my parents' bedroom, finding my dad lying on his bed, reading his Bible. It really does matter what your kids see you do.

He's been working in human resources for about 30 years now, and for the last year, he received the great honor of being elected President of TPMA (Tennessee Personnel Management Association), which is a large group of his peers. And now, they've elected him to be president for a second year (which has never been done before...it is always a new person each year). They recently presented him with a plaque, and gave him a standing ovation for the job he has done over the last year.

I'm sharing two pictures with you. The first is my dad with the mayor of Knoxville, Bill Haslam, whom he had just introduced at a convention there a few weeks ago. The second is my dad receiving his plaque.

Good parents and grandparents are worth more than anything money can buy. I've been richly blessed with family and good role models, who have impacted me profoundly.

I'm very happy for him that his hard work and integrity has been recognized by his peers. He deserves any appreciation that he receives.

A Drug Problem

My friend Bryan Dill forwarded this to me, and I thought it was worth reading.

It's Nacho Cat...in HD



I just got a Flip Ultra HD to use for the youth group, and I needed some way to test it. Though it's a bit of a shaky video, now you can see Nacho in HD. You can actually hear her purring, too. haha

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Word of Advice For Ministers About Shirt Designs

With camp coming up, my mind is beginning to focus on themes, logos, and shirts. One of my pet peeves is the way I often see people design shirts for youth groups. I believe that if you're going to go to the trouble and expense of getting shirts made, they should be of a quality equal to whatever the kids could buy at a name brand store.

I have known of many people to get shirts designed who meant well, but produced some shirts that must have quickly made it into either the back corner of the closet (best case), or to the local Goodwill (worst case). Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

1. Bad Color Choices. This is always apparent when you're at an airport and you see a church group traveling. You know it's a church group because they are all wearing shirts that are some neon, radioactive canary color. Sure, when EVERYONE has one, it makes it look a little better and you can spot people. But individually, no one wants to wear a shirt that is so conspicuous, not to mention it could give you a headache. Stay away from neon colors. Most colors can work fine, if the rest of the color scheme is carefully thought out.

2. Not enough colors. People who get shirts designed often worry too much about budgeting. I fully sympathize that we have to not be wasteful, but if you go for the cheapest option possible, with one color printed on one side, the result will be an ugly shirt that feels cheap. One of my club brothers at HU got us a shirt one time that had the right colors, but all that was on it was a one color image on the back with no text, and nothing on the front. He was happy he had kept the cost down, and everyone got one, but most of us only used it for sweating in. Especially when you're thinking about representing your church, and therefore your God, you don't want something that says, "This is not worth spending an extra dime on."

In your attempts to be frugal, you're actually wasting more money than if you had spent an extra few bucks per shirt, because no one will want to wear it. Let's be honest, if you can afford a $7 shirt, you can afford a $10 shirt; especially if it is one that looks good.

3. A bad designer. I have also seen a lot of shirts put together by people with no artistic inclinations whatsoever, because they thought they could whip something together that would be "good enough". Know yourself well enough to know if you aren't an artist. There are lots of designers available who typically do not charge much for a shirt design. Whatever it costs you, to have a shirt professionally designed is completely worth it, and it reflects well on your group. Do not cut corners on getting your design.

4. Following fashions from the wrong era. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than when I see something for a youth group that looks like it came straight out of the mid 80s. Words like awesome, radical, extreme, totally, etc., in spray-paint looking fonts and a full rainbow of colors are simply not how it needs to be done these days.

Since I've given you some things to avoid, let me make some constructive suggestions on how to have some great shirts:

1. DO spend some time looking at the current trends in shirts to get ideas for yours. Whenever I have given much input into whatever shirts I've had made, I began by doing research into what is popular. Go to the malls and look at the Ts. Look at them online. Take notes about colors, design styles, font styles, and material types. Are they earth tones or brighter colors? Ringer Ts or regular Ts? Is the type bright, or made to look faded?

I get that Christians are to be different than the world in the way we conduct ourselves. There are plenty of verses that urge modesty, but modest is not a synonym for "ugly."

2. Unless you are an artistic prodigy, or have formal training in graphic design, DO hire someone to do your design work for you. I've found that there are a lot of Christian graphic designers who are actually thrilled to do design work for churches at reasonable rates. It gives them an opportunity to use their gifts for God. Ask, seek, knock, and you'll have much better shirts. If you're in the boat of needing a design and you don't know where to find a designer, just ask me; I can refer you to several people who will do a good job. In fact, if you already have a shirt company in mind to use (I can suggest those also), they often have a designer on staff, or one they work with often. It really isn't that hard to find one if you just ask.

3. To make suggestions to your designer, I've had great luck by actually purchasing a shirt that resembles what I want, then giving it to them as a way to help them conceptualize what they will make. The most popular shirt I ever had made was when I was president of my social club. I bought a shirt at Old Navy that I thought looked good, then I gave it to my designer buddy and said, "Make it something like this." Everyone loved it, and no one complained a single time about the price, which was a few dollars higher than usual ($12 instead of the previous $7). I even heard people who joined the club later lamenting that they didn't get to have one. Of course, my designer deserves a lot of the credit here, because he's good, but any artistic person should be able to take an idea and run with it if you give them something of sufficient quality.

4. DO remember that quality communicates. If you spend the time and money to get something that really looks sharp, people notice. Nothing makes me happier than when I'm wearing a church camp shirt and someone says, "Wow...those look really good...where did you get them?"

For some examples, here are a couple of shirts I had made last year. One was for our Monterrey Mexico trip, and the other was for Church Camp. The Monterrey shirt was a darker, earth-tone color. The camp shirt is bright red. It is definitely possible to use bright colors--though I still would hesitate at neons--if everything else is done well.

Preachers and ministers are already viewed in our culture as uncool and suspicious. If I am going to encourage my teens to bring their friends and to represent the Church, then to the extent that I can, I should make sure they don't have to be embarrassed about the things I give them to represent us.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: Stick

Nacho loves to be out in the warmer weather. Carolina decided to grab a stick the other day, and Nacho had a great time playing with it. When she's playing, she does this bizarre thing where she takes her back feet and digs her claws into the ground/carpet behind her head. You can see this in the rather bizarre second picture.





video

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Family Tree Research Through DNA

I stumbled across this thing called the DNA Ancestry Project, and thought it looks really fascinating. Anyone ever tried anything like this?

My grandfather has done quite a bit of research into our family tree, and we've made it back several generations, but seem to have hit some walls that are holding us up from getting back further.

This company is taking the approach that we've all come from common ancestors in Africa, and by looking at our DNA, compared to the DNA of other people from different areas, we can learn a lot about where we come from as well as to whom we may be related.

It's a little pricey, but not beyond what can be afforded. I think it would be interesting to try.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: America Runs On Dunkin'...

...and apparently, so does Nacho.

She was very curious about my Dunkin' Donuts coffee. When I tried to lift it out of her reach to keep her from licking the lid, she jumped up and grabbed my hand with her front two paws, pulling it back down to her level, so she could continue sniffing that intoxicating aroma.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: Tennis Ball

Nacho loves being outside on our deck in the warm weather. We sat out with her on a Sunday afternoon, enjoying the breeze, and she started attacking an old tennis ball we had lying around.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some Developments In My Thinking

I've felt like my blog has been a bit neglected in the last couple of months. I guess the appearance is that presently, I have nothing to say, though I'm sure you must all think I have a limitless supply of pictures of my cat. :-)

My problem has been quite the opposite. I can't seem to find time to make posts long enough to cover what's on my mind. I'm seriously contemplating some different series of posts around a few subjects of interest, but it will have to wait until I have time to do it. I'm getting ready for the summer, which means VBS, Camp, lining up Bible class teachers, and a calendar full of youth activities.

In the last few months, I've been encountering some concepts that have really impacted me; particularly in things pertaining to preaching and teaching. I've had a weekly class with Dr. David Fleer at Lipscomb, and it's definitely been one of the most meaningful of my entire grad school experience. Some of what I've been thinking about are ideas that Dr. Fleer has presented in class, though most of my thinking has been under construction for a long time before now.

I've been in a cocoon for a while, and I think it's time for me to break out, and put some of my ideas in writing to see if they can fly. This will be a long post, but I would be interested in hearing your reactions to some of this stuff.

Here are some things that have been on my mind:

1. Effective Communication - What is the best way to teach and speak in order to not just say what we have to say, but be heard in ways that inspire our audience to conviction and action?

1A. Rhetoric. I've been consuming books on Rhetoric; the art of persuasion. I've been studying the different techniques of arranging words, and building phrases for the sake of making an impact in what I say. I consider these things as tools in a speaker's tool chest. In fact, I've already had some good success in using them in a couple of sermons. A few weeks ago, near a climactic point of my sermon, I made a point, using a rhetorical device to build one phrase upon another, and I got a resounding "Amen" response from several people. This stuff works. I'm 100% convinced that in school, our children would be much better served to have classes in Rhetoric than in Calculus.

What concerns me about becoming too consumed with rhetorical studies is that Rhetoric has no soul. It is like power or money. It's not inherently good or bad; it's all in how you use it. There is the ever present temptation to manipulate listeners by crafting arguments around desired outcomes. I do believe in right and wrong, and I think it is vital that students of rhetoric ensure that their rhetoric remains in service to the truth, and not in service primarily to their own agenda.

I've been wanting to start a series of posts on rhetoric, because it has helped me so much in both speaking and in analyzing what others say to me. Mastering rhetoric is like becoming a Jedi. You can definitely do the mind tricks, and if the rhetorical "force" is strong with you, you become much less susceptible to the linguistic tricks that others will try on you to persuade you. I'm convinced our current president got into office based on his rhetorical skills, more than on any other credential. We're still learning who this guy is, but he sure knows how to captivate an audience.

1B. Indirect Communication. I've become infatuated yet again with Fred Craddock's work. If you've never heard or read any of Fred Craddock's sermons, there's simply no one else like him. I've been reading up on his techniques for sermon preparation, and have recently finished his book Overhearing The Gospel. This book explains a lot of where he comes from.

When we utilize the I-Thou method in our communication, we tend to isolate our listeners. If you get up and speak at people, saying, "You..., you..., you...," then your listeners might be putting up their defenses against what you'll try to convict them to do.

But there's something about listening in on other people's conversations that helps us keep our defenses down. Craddock says the most effective way to communicate is not with rhetoric directed at people, but by speaking to them indirectly. Saying what you want them to hear, as if to another person, and letting them overhear your points. He argues that in order for this to happen effectively, there has to be both distance and participation.

Imagine walking past a cemetary, frustrated about your home life or your spouse. You overhear two people talking about a person who is buried there, and they speak about what a great father he was, how much they'll miss him, and how in spite of his short comings, they wouldn't trade him for anything. They speak of the kind things that they never said, but they wish so much that they would have said. One speaks with deep regret about a period of time when they had not even been on speaking terms, and of what a terrible loss that had been. You might be moved to tears, thinking, "I should be more grateful. I'm so lucky to have my family. I shouldn't take my own for granted, and I should get over myself and appreciate what I've got."

If this were to happen, you would have distance, as you were not part of the conversation. You would also have participation, because as a listener, you would be bringing your own emotions and thoughts to the experience. Doesn't our audience always do this? Had you not heard their story, and had the two people turned to you directly and said, "You should be ashamed! You should appreciate your wife! You shouldn't gripe so much!" you might have gotten defensive, or ran away.

Craddock believes we should try to recreate those kinds of experiences in sermons where we impact people by letting them listen in on our conversations with and about the Gospel. We let them explore the text with us, talking about our discoveries and emotions along the way. We try to speak in the first and third person perspectives, while minimizing the use of the audience-directed, second person "you" statements.

This approach is very different than what we're used to in most churches of Christ, but I'm experimenting with it. My goal is to be the most effective communicator I'm capable of becoming, and hopefully this will help me toward that end.

1C. Providing No Rabbits To Chase. In trying to develop a more narrative/indirect homiletical technique, it's easy to get too carried away with the stories sometimes. Fleer has given some good advice about how to use stories and illustrations; namely to trim them down well. The metaphor he used was that of the dog racing tracks, where they send those little rabbit things flying around the circle, which the dogs chase.

He said we have to be careful that our illustrations don't send the people's minds flying away from our topic. He said:
If you're going to share a bit of wisdom from a statement your wife made to you about a subject, you might set up the whole scenario: "Two weeks ago, my wife and I saw that new Batman movie together, then we had a nice dinner at Olive Garden. We got home, and while she was in the bath tub, we were talking about the idea of Mercy, and she said something really profound..."

You just sent half a dozen rabbits running off that people will be tempted to chase. Some will think about Batman. Some will think about Heath Ledger's Joker portrayal. Some will think about Adam West. Some will think about bread sticks at the Olive Garden. Some might be thinking about your wife in the bathtub. But if any of those are the case, it will be all your fault for sending out those rabbits!

All that is really needed here is to say, "I was talking with my wife the other night about the idea of Mercy, and she said something really profound..."
2. Contemplative Prayer. I've read a couple of books recently that have been helping my prayer life a lot. One is by Mark Thibodeaux called The Armchair Mystic. It's a book specifically about how to do contemplative prayer. The other is called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. Scazzero does a terrific job about presenting the Christian life in very holistic terms, involving every aspect of the person. He used two balloons as an example of how we often balance our lives between activity and contemplation. The balloons were tied to opposite ends of a single string, which had an anchor at the bottom. Most Christians have the activity balloon full to the point of bursting, while letting the contemplative side be almost completely out of air, getting tugged around by the activity side. I saw that illustration and said, "That is me."

I've been working a lot on personal spiritual growth over the last several months, and finally feel I am making some progress in this regard. I've been strongly convicted of the importance of not only learning how to talk to God--or talk at God--in prayer, but that prayer's purpose is beyond just saying things or asking for things; it's about being with God. I'm working on this.

3. Postliberalism. I've been trying this on for size, and there are aspects of it that fit me well, while other aspects seem to leave me feeling uncovered. This is not a political stance or a doctrinal stance as much as it is a world view issue for me. Liberalism is what gave rise to the modern, and now postmodern, eras of our history. Liberalism is what got people so hooked on Science and existentialism. Liberalism has produced our mentality that everything is relative, and that nothing exists unless it can be measured, broken down, and studied in a test tube. It is western culture's dominant epistemology.

There are many Christian groups and companies out there who spend a great deal of time and energy on apologetics. I used to love apologetics, but for a while now, I have come away from apologetic works feeling empty, like the authors are somehow missing the point, though I couldn't express exactly what I felt was lacking.

Postliberalism has helped me clarify what it is that's been bothering me. Both the atheists and the theists who are having these great debates about God's existence, Creation, dinosaurs, etc., are really two sides of the same coin. Both typically share a world view that is dominated by the understanding that Science rules over all, and that in order for anything to be valid or valuable, it must be within the realm of scientific possibilities, with a provable scientific explanation.

Even those arguing for Christ are accepting the presuppositions that the Bible must also bow down to scientific theory, and they spend much ink and paper trying to show how what appears unscientific in the Bible actually is scientific. But I often find myself asking, "What difference does it make?" If Creation happened in six 24-hour days, or if it was in six vast time periods, or of God spoke it into existence instantaneously, and inspired Moses to describe it in six movements so that we can understand it better, what critical difference does that make for me and the people I'm teaching every week? We can't hop on a time machine to learn what happened, so we either accept it or we don't.

Let me not overstate my case here. I believe with all my heart that Scripture is Truth, and is inspired by God, and that it is exactly what God wants me to know. It teaches me how to live, and it teaches me how to know and understand God. My critique is not that we should abandon scientific thought, or that this stuff doesn't matter. My argument, though, is that I do not hold a world view that Science reigns over and above all things, or that I must submit all that I think or believe to Science for it's stamp of approval.

I believe that such an approach holds too low a view of Scripture. I'm increasingly believing Karl Barth's reasoning that Christ is a Lion. As he put it, when you're out in the jungle with a lion, and another beast comes to attack the lion, do you defend the lion? The lion is king of the jungle. Step back, and let the lion defend himself. By the time of my baptism, I accepted the belief that Scripture is God's Word, and I don't have to reprove that to myself every time I come to worship. From time to time, I get it back out again, and wrestle with it, but I'm still satisfied with my original conclusion. Sometimes I think our efforts at apologetics are a lot more effective in preaching to the choir than they are in convincing the opposition.

After all, why do you read Scripture? How often do you have someone present you with a Bible and say, "(insert your name), I have been on a quest for the most Scientific book ever written. I have read through this book, looking for new things to learn about Science that are presented in the most Scientific ways possible. This book is superb Science. This book is...the Bible."

Of course not. We continue to read Scripture because it moves us. We can read it 100 times, and still find new ways to understand it. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, Scripture seems to interpret us faster than we are able to interpret it. Its words seem distant and lofty, yet they cut me to my core, they give me hope, they inspire me, and they challenge me. Scripture contains many things which are scientifically provable, but that isn't why I read the Bible. The Bible is different--and more valuable--than that. It can speak of morality, mercy, and forgivness; things about which Science has nothing to offer.

Regarding the various studies of the world, I say we use God's advice to the Israelites at the time of the Exodus and we "plunder the Egyptians." Let us take the best of what Science, Technology, Economics, Rhetoric, Literature, Mathematics, Social Sciences, etc., can offer, and use these things in the service of God. But let us not harness and restrain Scripture so that it fits the fashions of the day.

Too often, our preaching has involved taking the luscious fruit of Scripture, then boiling it down until there's a little stain of meaning at the bottom of the pot, then we try to find the way to make it "apply to our lives today." I'm becoming convinced that rather than interpreting Scripture in light of our own lives, to fit our ways of thinking, instead, we should bring our lives to Scripture, and let it interpret us. We should submit to it entirely, and trust it to lead us in the paths of righteousness. It isn't enough to preach my own ideas with a couple of texts to prove my point. I should treat each Scripture with enormous respect, and with a sense of awe and discovery which demand me to ask, "If this verse is really true, what does it mean I will have to be doing differently in my life, regardless of the immediate consequences?"

Such a worldview can be dangerous to your health and safety, but I'm increasingly convinced that this is the view God desires for his Church. We must let Christ reign over all aspects of our lives, trusting the Shepherd to lead us; accepting that we don't always know what's "best" or "relevant."

Postliberalism, often referred to as Narrative Theology, argues something like what I'm arguing here. It is focussed on the story of God, and in becoming part of that story. I love the idea of letting Scripture be the authority of my world, over and above all other areas of study. I'm confident that the leaders in this type of thinking would say I haven't defined it correctly here. I'm really not trying to. I'm simply saying that these are some tenets which I've gained from this philosophy, which I believe have some deep and meaningful potential to them.

The parts of it I like less have to do with the areas of truth and relativism. Even though I've grown tired of many of the same old arguments, the Christian faith is grounded in space and time. It is based on realities that happened to real people in real places. Postliberalism is wonderful in that it rejects the Liberal assumptions about the nature of reality, but it often does a poor job of taking stances on facts.

Paul said that if Christ wasn't really resurrected, then our faith is in vain, the Church should not exist, and every Sunday morning I am loosing a lot of valuable sleep time. More than that, we may well be enemies of God who teach lies about him. Postliberalism is more interested in the story of Scripture and what it has to say for us, and it really doesn't even seem to want to join in on the discussion about "what actually happened," nor is it quick to take defined stances on doctrines.

It makes a difference whether we're reading true stories of real people versus reading fairy tales to inspire benevolent actions.

In this particular aspect, though it is cliche, the "slippery slope" argument is relevant. If we return to the Genesis, 6-day creation example, if it's okay to discount the historicity of the creation, then why not also Jonah? If Jonah, why not Christ's miracles? If the miracles, why not the resurrection? They are all connected, and it's very dangerous to be too quick to discount any part of it.

I'm uncomfortable enough with some of the shortcomings that I cannot entirely pitch my tent among the postliberals, though there is much about what they are doing that resonates with me.

So to whomever is reading this, these are some things that have been almost constantly on my mind for the last few months. I hope to uphold the complete Lordship of Christ in my life and my ministry, and I wonder if these concepts will help me or hinder me?

What say you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: Taxes are Taxing

Nacho's favorite toy for the last several weeks has been this workbook designed to help you figure out Arkansas taxes. She doesn't like them any more than I do, apparently.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: More Strangers At The Door

We continue to have frequent visits by this larger male cat that looks very much like Nacho. They have these meow exchanges that sound a lot like they're sighing. Him in his low pitched tone, and her in her high pitched one. The cat often meets us at our front door as if to say, "Can you send Nacho outside?" We open the door, and they look at each other and meow, but he never crosses the threshold to come inside, and she never goes outside. You can see her face peaking out here in the picture.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Use Your Allusion: Falstaff

Sir John Falstaff is a fictional character that has appeared in three of Shakespeare's plays. He is used largely (no pun intended) for comic relief. He is a companion to Prince Hal in Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and in Wives Of Windsor.

His character is fairly easy to summarize. He is an obese, vainglorious, cowardly knight. One critic refers to him as a "lying tub of lard." He leads Prince Hal into trouble, and is ultimately repudiated when Hal becomes king.

Falstaff is a fun allusion, partly because his name sounds humorous. Some have argued that it is actually an innuendo for impotence, as if he is so drunk most of the time, he is unable to perform. I'll not say more about that.

I do take requests for Use Your Allusion posts, and my old buddy Jeremy suggested Falstaff might be a good one to mention. Thanks, buddy!

If you ever need to refer to a dishonest, self-centered, overweight person, you might find a way to work in the name "Falstaff."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's NOT Nacho Cat: Wake Up!

Though this is just a cartoon, my day starts off almost exactly like this each morning.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: Kitty Plate

Whenever Carolina cooks, within 5 minutes, Nacho shows up from wherever she's been inside, or if she's outside, she'll be meowing at the door. We have a routine down where whatever we're cooking, Carolina will save a small portion of meat for Nacho and put it on a small kitty-shaped plate for her to enjoy. Nacho always devours it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ministry Beginnings: Leonard Church of Christ

I typically credit Rose Bud with being my first ministry experience, but in fact, there were a couple before this. I did an internship at the Central Church of Christ in Sarasota, Florida, where I helped Terry Reeves work with the youth, but the first place I ever preached was at the Leonard Church of Christ near Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee.

It was a small crowd, but they were very supportive and friendly, despite my mediocre preaching. The building was located beside beautiful rolling hills, and I don't know if I've ever seen a prettier location to have worship. Before getting hired at Rose Bud as a full-time preacher, I had spoken a grand total of 5 times, I believe; 4 at Leonard, and once on a Sunday night at the Gladstone Church of Christ in Nashville. Leonard got me to come out a few times during the summer to give some relief to their normal preacher, who was a full-time school teacher.

I was hunting for pictures from youth group events to get printed up, and I came across these. It brings back some great memories. This little congregation was founded very near the beginning of the Restoration Movement.

The first time I preached, I insisted on going by myself. The second time, both sets of my grandparents, as well as my parents came along. This was the summer of 2003, and I was getting ready to graduate in December. I had been working with my friend Ed doing lawn care, which explains my abnormally dark tan.





One of my favorite things about this church is that they still have working outhouses! Fortunately, they had added one inside, too, but I really got a kick out of this, and was sure to pose with it while I was there. After church, we'd go to some fantastic meat & 3 restaurant that had incredible home made pies.

I need to get back in touch with these folks. It would be good to go out and see them again. I think it would be especially neat to get some of my young men from church to go out and help with the worship one day. We'll see...

But for now, I'm enjoying a bit of nostalgia.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Use Your Allusion: Détente

Détente (pronounced "day-TAHNT") is not really an allusion, but a French term. It is most often used about relationships between nations. It has to do with the relaxing of tensions between formerly hostile groups. What I think is significant about the concept is that while tensions are relaxed, the parties remain very separate.

I encountered this word in a book about overcoming church conflict called Making Peace. They used the term to describe a negative example where two parties disagree, then reach a solution that involves less waves on the surface but no reconciliation between disagreeing parties.

This term was used a lot in the last hundred years about the relationship between the US and the Soviet Union. We weren't dropping bombs on each other, but we were training our children in school what to do in case the Commies attacked. We signed treaties which would limit the expansion of nuclear programs to peaceful use, however much of our intent was more centered around preventing the spread of weapons to other smaller, turbulent nations, rather than on limiting the superpowers from doing what we pleased.

Similarly, there are quite a few examples I could use about how congregations will have, more or less, two congregations meeting in one building at different times because of a disagreement; usually about worship. There might not be open conflict, but there may still be distrust between groups. This is an example of détente; where there is not fighting, but there really isn't real peace either.

Détente means that we sleep with one eye open. Things are calmer on the surface than they might have been, but we're not taking any combative options off the table. While it may seem necessary for international relations, it is not a desirable practice in churches, when genuine peace is possible and divisions can be dissolved. Real peace is not easy, but it is to be desired over détente.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's Nacho Cat: Pearls

We got home from church, and when Carolina took off her necklace, she suddenly got this idea, and held Nacho down to put it on her. I guess it was time to give her an upgraded collar. Nacho wasn't too fond of the process, but the funny thing about her is that she seems to understand the concept of posing for the camera. She stood still for about 5 minutes while we got the pictures we wanted, and when we were done, she was glad to let us take the necklace off. There were about 10 more pictures that I could have posted, but I thought these two were the best.


Monday, March 16, 2009

A New Roof

We've been having some problems with leaks, especially in Don's office, so I'm thrilled to have some better cover above our heads, but the process of getting it in place is a very audible experience. :-)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Use Your Allusion: Volpone

Volpone is a character in a comedy by Ben Johnson of the same name, originally printed in 1607.

Volpone is a childless man, and he manages to draw some attention to himself by pretending that he is imminently about to die, and is therefore seeking an heir.

Several suitors show up, and visit his bedside. Volpone's sidekick is named Mosca. Mosca secretly convinces each of these suitors that if he gives Volpone an expensive suitable gift, then it is certain that he will become the heir.

Volpone gloats over the great gifts he starts receiving, but since Mosca has integrity as lacking as that of Volpone, it is only a matter of time before Mosca tries to blackmail Volpone out of his treasures. Volpone decides to confess to the authorities and have both of them be punished, rather than see Mosca take away his fortune.

This is not a character I've seen alluded to often, but it is an amusing story. You could definitely use this of someone who is a hypochondriac, who looks to get special treatment and attention from people disproportionate to how ill they actually are. In fact, you could call them "Volpone", and it's unlikely they'd even know what you meant!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Christian One Liners

I've seen many of these before, but several of them are pretty good. To any of my readers who are in charge of updating your church marquee: You're welcome.

Christian One Liners

Don't let your worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a basket case.
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Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews.
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Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.
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It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.
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The good Lord didn't create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.
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When you get to your wit's end, you'll find God lives there.
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People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church.
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Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever.
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Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you couldn't belong.
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If the church wants a better preacher, it only needs to pray for the one it has.
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God Himself does not propose to judge a man until he is dead. So why should you?
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Some minds are like concrete thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
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Peace starts with a smile.
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I don't know why some people change churches; what difference does
it make which one you stay home from?
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A lot of church members who are singing 'Standing on the Promises' are just sitting on the premises.
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We were called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.
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Be ye fishers of men. You catch them - He'll clean them.
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Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.
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Don't put a question mark where God put a period.
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Don't wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.
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Forbidden fruits create many jams.
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God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
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God grades on the cross, not the curve.
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God loves everyone, but probably prefers 'fruit of the spirit' over a 'religious nut!'
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God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
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He who angers you, controls you!
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If God is your Co-pilot - swap seats!
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Prayer: Don't give God instructions -- just report for duty!
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The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.
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The Will of God never takes you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.
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We don't change the message, the message changes us.
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You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.
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The best mathematical equation I have ever seen:
1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.