Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fine Dining with Oreos

I know, dear reader, I've been neglecting you. It'll continue at least until Christmas. In the meantime, here's a little something you might like.

OREO TRUFFLES

- 18 oz Oreos (~54 cookies)
- 3 tablespoons of pulverized candy canes
- 8 oz Philly Cream Cheese (1 package)

Throw the Oreos in a blender, a few at a time. Pour the resulting crumbs into a mixing bowl along with the candy canes. Mix, then add cream cheese. Squash together until it's evenly mixed. You should have a sticky ball of chocolate mint cream cheese.

Take a tablespoon measure and scoop out as many scoops as possible, then roll each one and place on a cookie sheet. The resulting truffles will be sticky; you can give them a nice edge by rolling them in unsweetened cocoa powder and then (once they turn dark brown again) rolling them in supergranulated sugar (which you can get by putting half a cup of regular sugar into a food processor).

Lay 'em out on wax paper and stick 'em in the fridge. Serve and eat!

OREO RUM BALLS

Same basic idea, but with no cream cheese.

9 oz Oreos (~27 cookies), pulverized
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons of pulverized candy canes
2 Tbsp light karo syrup
1/3 cup rum

Mix the dry (first 5 ingredients) then add the wet (last two). Finish them just like the truffles: scoop with a tablespoon, roll into balls, roll in cocoa powder, let sit, roll in supergranulated sugar, refrigerate.

Enjoy!

EDIT: I should mention that if you want to do these "properly" (especially the truffles) you should melt some chocolate, dip them in, fish them out, and lay them out on a piece of wax paper. But my devotion only goes so far, and I didn't have any more chocolate in the house. I used it all up making Chocolate Chipotle Candied Almonds.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stuff I found interesting

I've been drowning under the amount of information that comes at me in a given week. Tomorrow is blocked out for clearing my email inbox, but tonight I multi-tasked by clearing out my Hulu queue in one tab while pounding through my Google Reader items in another. The only problem was that I had so many cool shared items that it would have absolutely overwhelmed my Shared Items feed. So here's a punchlist of stuff I found interesting between 10 and 11:30pm on Thursday night. Skip a link at your own uninformed peril.


THIS is COMMANDMENT. A 10 Commandments move "in the style of 300."

Atheists offer to care for Christians' Pets After the Rapture. Now there's a great idea for a new business.

"Nocebos": Like Placebos, but for bad stuff. Learning about the side effects of medication can give you the side effects even if you're on a sugar pill.

Niki's Choice: Here's what happens when you make Christianity "Jesus plus X" instead of just "Jesus."

The Surprising Truth About Shepherds: Margaret Feinberg argues that they're always drawn from the weakest members of society. Spiritual application seems obvious.

Fun (fake) interview with J.Edwards: Who, by the way, is not my homeboy. First three questions are absolutely great, though.

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule: If only I could figure out which one I am.

An interesting take on flu vaccine. I'm pro-vaccine in general, but I never get the flu vaccine. Now I don't have to feel bad about it!

The latest Pomplamoose cover is out! Go watch it immediately unless you've not already watched Single Ladies, Mrs. Robinson, and My Favorite Things.

I'm not linking to Regretsy.com because who knows what will be on the front page when you click the link. Search at your own peril. Let's just say that it's hilariously awful and leave it at that.

Learning with Lawrence. Start watching now so you'll be able to say "I watched those guys when they were still on YouTube!

Tim Keller (one of my current favorites) says I shouldn't spend more than 6-8 hours per week on preaching. Glad I got that one right, Tim!

And, to top it all off... weirdest ad campaign I've ever seen.

I think it goes without saying that you're missing out if you're not on Reader. For extra credit, try following my shared items. Why would you watch CNN when you could be getting real news instead?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

You keep using that word...

I do not think it means what you think it means.



The sky calls to us.

A still more glorious dawn awaits: not a sunrise, but a galaxyrise. A morning filled with four hundred billion suns: the rising of the Milky Way. The cosmos is full beyond measure: elegant truths, exquisite relationships and the awesome machinery of nature. We float like a mote of dust on the morning sky.


When I was a kid, Sagan was a guilty pleasure. I loved the guy but knew he was a big believer that the earth was billions and billions of years old, which obviously meant he didn't believe in God. Obviously I couldn't take his word for anything! (New readers: that's sarcasm. Check the archives). I still read his novel Contact, though, which was amazing. It contained all of the science/religion dichotomy of the movie it was made into, with one twist: it ends with a (fictional but possible) proof of God. The ending earned Carl some scorn in "legitimate" academic and scholarly circles and was cut from the movie, but it was his only way to resolve the amazing nature of the beauty he'd found in the universe. With such an amazing Creation, there must certainly be a Creator. Changing the ending changed the meaning of his book, but the movie was written and produced after his death.

And when viewed with that backstory, the autotuned video mashup takes on a whole new meaning.

The sky calls to us. A still more glorious dawn awaits.

You weren't wrong, Carl.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Sufficient" Depravity

Alternate title: Confessions of a Zero-Point Calvinist

I read an amazing quote while cleaning my office today. If you don't get a laugh out of this you're not a theologian.

That's not intended as a compliment, but you're welcome to take it that way.

====

From Ortberg's recent article in Leadership Magazine:

Somebody asked Dallas Willard once if he believed in total depravity. His reply was that he believed in "sufficient depravity." Never having run into that doctrine before, the interviewer asked for clarification. Dallas said "I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved so that no one will ever get into heaven and say 'I merited this.'"

Absolutely priceless. I love Ortberg and Willard both, so this a duofecta (almost a trifecta).

I'll leave a lengthy analysis of Calvin's shortcomings as a theologian to more patient persons, choosing here only to note that he, alone of all the Reformers, was not trained as a pastor. He was a French lawyer. That doesn't mean he can't be a good theologian, but it does go a long way towards understanding the theological position he constructed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

So long, William

I've been meaning to put this out for a week, but sick kids put everything else on hold. William Safire passed away last week, and it simply didn't seem right that the popular press focused on things like his political opinions instead of his greatest contribution to the English-speaking world: William Safire's Rules of Witing. Without further ado:

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid clich├ęs like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
6. Be more or less specific.
7. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
8. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
9. No sentence fragments.
10. Don’t use no double negatives.
11. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out or mispeld something.
12. Eschew obfuscation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This is why women should be pastors.

Exhibit A: My friend Karin Maney. You rock, Karin.

The Peace of God from Recycle Your Faith on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The myth of "quality time."

There's no such thing as "quality time" with your kids. Or rather, there IS, but it's worthless. The phrase doesn't have a long history... it came to prominence in the 80s with the idea that you might work 90-hour weeks, but could make up for it on the weekend by taking the kids to theme parks or the beach or something. Work hard and play hard. Make lots of memories in a short amount of time. Worthless.

Kids don't care about quality time... they care about QUANTITY time. Would Jenna love it if we went to the beach every weekend? Sure. But she also loves sitting in the backyard throwing a ball back and forth. What matters isn't that we do amazing things together, but that we do them often. My being home as many nights as possible is a much bigger deal than whether we have huge weekend plans.

That said, she and I have developed a weekly tradition... on my day off, we get up early and make waffles. Since finishing off the Bisquick, we've been experimenting with different "from scratch" recipes and we've finally settled on one. Do yourself a favor and make these waffles. Best part is you use the half-cup measure for everything (including pouring the batter). Minimal cleanup rocks.

Jenna's Waffles

First, mix these dry ingredients:
- 1 cup white flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons brown sugar
- plenty of cinnamon (I never measure)

Then, add these and mix again:
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 eggs
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 banana, mashed with a fork

And for fun, add something like this:
- 1 small handful chocolate chips
- 1 small handful peanut butter chips

We don't use syrup (these waffles don't need it), just vanilla yogurt. Try it... your kids (or your taste buds) will thank you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Important Lessons from Children's Books

My daughter has a new favorite book: The Little Engine that Could. It's very sweet, and teaches an important lesson. Every time I read it, though, I can't help but think of the definitive poetic version by Shel Silverstein.

Shel was a weird dude (check the link for his first major employer) but the dude could write serious poetry. This is one of my favorites.

The Little Blue Engine, by Shel Silverstein

The little blue engine looked up at the hill.
His light was weak, his whistle was shrill.
He was tired and small, and the hill was tall,
And his face blushed red as he softly said,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

So he started up with a chug and a strain,
And he puffed and pulled with might and main.
And slowly he climbed, a foot at a time,
And his engine coughed as he whispered soft,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

With a squeak and a creak and a toot and a sigh,
With an extra hope and an extra try,
He would not stop — now he neared the top —
And strong and proud he cried out loud,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!”

He was almost there, when — CRASH! SMASH! BASH!
He slid down and mashed into engine hash
On the rocks below... which goes to show
If the track is tough and the hill is rough,
THINKING you can just ain’t enough!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fundamental Assumptions Part 1: The God Who Salvages

I wrote this as part of an ongoing writing project with my wife called The Theology of the Tweak. It's been sadly neglected due to our familial addition, but I'd like to get it going again.

---

The hard part about our Tweak Theology is that it has so many self-referencing assumptions that it's hard to articulate where the starting point is. It's basically turtles all the way down. But there are a few bedrock beliefs that I think can stand on their own before we get into the meat of it.



The very first is that our God is a God who salvages. Joe Boyd told me last year that Wall-E was the most spiritual movie made in 2008, and I couldn't agree more.

Look, we Christians have created all kinds of baggage around the word "saved." It's not really meaningful to us. Does the word mean remotely the same thing when saying "I got saved this weekend" and "I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance?" Obviously not. Forget the comparison of spiritual life and car insurance... aside from that, the word is still being used in totally different ways. Try this on for size, though:

Salvage: to rescue or save especially from wreckage or ruin

Catch that? Synonym for "save" is "salvage" when referring to "rescuing from wreckage or ruin." That's a pretty good explanation of what it means to enter a relationship with God... what if instead of saying "I'm saved" we instead said "I'm salvaged?" I don't know if our egos could handle it ("I don't need salvaging!") but it would be a lot more theologically accurate.

But WAIT! There's MORE!

I'm not going to spend a ton of time defending this (it's a blog post, and it's already too long) unless somebody objects, in which case I'll dive in and tackle it more thoroughly. But here it is:

God's goal is to save the world. I don't mean that just in the soteriological sense, but also in the practical. God's desire is BOTH to offer salvation (saving relationship, eternal life, etc) to every individual, AND to salvage our relationships, our culture, our work, our institutions, and our planet. These things are broken, usually as a result of our own brokenness. God is a fixer by nature, and each broken thing he desires to fix. I'm positing that half on Scripture and half by extrapolating from his character. If you have a great verse I should know please stick it in the comments.

But that's a quick writeup on one of my most basic understandings about life, God, and theology. It's not one that everyone shares (at the very least, it's fair to say that every 5-pointer has already written me off as a heretic) but this is the absolute bedrock of my understanding of God.

Fundamental Assumption #1: God is a Salvager by both nature and choice. It's a fundamental character trait to fix what is broken, which means that His goal is not only to redeem individuals from their brokenness but also to redeem the world: both nature's beauty and human society are fit recipients of his attention.

Or, more simply:

Our God is a God who salvages.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Case for Intelligent Design: Part 1.5 of 3.

I'll eventually finish, I promise. In the meantime, here's a thought on design while I'm unable to access my GMail.



For those just joining, this has nothing to do with "Intelligent Design" in terms of evolution. Rather, it's calling for intelligence in the way we design ministry systems. You can read Part 1 here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adam's Rib

Ok, this is one of the weirder things I've read recently.

Normally I'd skip right by this, but this past weekend I was at a beautiful wedding where the pastor spent an inordinate amount of time talking about Adam's rib and its significance.

It was an interesting thought that I'd never heard before: God didn't take from the man's head, or from his feet, but from his side. I expect that gentleman wouldn't find this short article to be very convincing.

EDIT: New link. Old one broke.

http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/28/gilbert_zevit.php

I read such weird stuff.

The Bible commands us...

Disclaimer: here's a fundamental set of assumptions that I've been operating under for the past year just to try them out. I've thought about it enough that I'm comfortable sharing it in public, but not so much that I'd put it in a theology textbook quite yet. Here goes:

If you hang out in Christian circles for very long, you'll find that there's a never-ending discussion about which Biblical commands are "universal" and which ones are merely "cultural." This came up in a recent discussion I had, and I thought both readers of my blog might find my response interesting. That particular discussion had to do with a discussion over 1 Corinthians 14 and whether women could be in teaching ministry over men (I know, it's 2009) and honesty requires me to admit I was making my point perhaps a bit too forcefully. Still, the issue framed a major difference in the way we viewed Scripture, and I thought I'd write about it here. My friend Adam G. said:
I guess one thing that those on the opposite side from you . . . find a little scary is that if you dismiss the issue as purely a localized, historically-restricted, cultural issue being addressed, then that may become a slippery slope of saying that *everything* of theological significance with which you disagree is just Paul addressing a cultural issue.

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek here, but I think that Adam radically underestimates the degree of heresy that I'm willing to promote. We're working from completely different paradigms of how we're supposed to understand the Bible. I don't just believe that the stuff I DISAGREE WITH is localized, history-restricted, and cultural. I think EVERYTHING is localized, history-restricted, and cultural.

  • "Do not murder?" Localized, history-restricted, and cultural.
  • "Take a little wine for your stomach?" Localized, history-restricted, and cultural.
  • "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him?" Localized, history-restricted, and cultural.
  • "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you?" Localized, history-restricted, and cultural.

The Bible isn't one big rulebook that we categorize in order to find commands. Each one of these statements is given at a specific time, by a specific person, to a specific person, for a specific situation. Each one of these commands is localized. Every one is given at a specific point in history. Every one of them is cultural.

ON THE OTHER HAND... (i.e., don't hang me yet)

I think EVERYTHING in the Bible is universal. I take Paul pretty seriously when he says ALL Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. So I think the dietary commands are universal. I think the Levitical purity commands are universal. I think the "eye for an eye" commands are universal. I think the "no tattooes" and "don't wear gold jewelry" and "don't wear cloth with two types of thread" and "don't have sex with farm animals" commands are all universal. I think the "women should be silent" stuff is universal. Every command God gives in the Bible applies to us today. Every description of God's preferences and personality is just as true today as it was the day it was written (since God does not change).

Here's the catch: it just doesn't necessarily apply to us in the way it applied to its original recipients (which, I need not remind remind you, we are not). As far as I can tell, I'm living in harmony with every one of the commands listed in this post, and I write this as I wear a gold ring, a comfortable poly-blend cloth shirt, and digest a carnitas burrito.

Look, if someone inspired by God went out of there way to say a certain behavior is wrong, and God saw fit to put that in the Bible, then why in the world would you say it doesn't pertain to you? That it doesn't, in some way, express God's heart?

The question that must always be asked about any command, though, is this: What's actually being revealed about God's heart, here? The dietary commands: does God really dislike pigs, or is he trying to get Israel to avoid (then-common, now-extinct) occult practices tied into the consumption of certain meats? Take the "eye for an eye" commands, for example. People get bent out of shape about how they enable vengeance, but pretty much all interpreters agree that they actually exist to prevent, not allow, the escalation of conflict. If everybody followed "an eye for an eye" we could never have a situation like this:


Neither woman is interested in getting even... each wants to get even, plus a little. Limiting their retribution means that the situation can't be escalated. God's heart is ultimately that we forgive (Jesus had a bit to say about this), but the short-term goal is to prevent escalation.

So in my opinion, the question "Are the instructions in this passage universal or cultural" is a false choice. Rather, when faced with any Scriptural command, we should immediately ask two questions:

1. In what ways is this command limited?
2. In what ways is is it universal?

And we should acknowledge that each command we find is both.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's in a name?

So the blog is titled "Forty Monkeys, Ten Minutes" because I misremembered the punchline to an old Dilbert comic.



But "Forty Monkeys" just sounds so much easier on my ego than "Three."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Case for Intelligent Design: Part 1 of 3.

I know an awful lot of Christians who care very much about the debate over creation and evolution, which is fine. I respect that. What boggles me, though, is how many people who detest biological evolution are willing to live with it in their ministry plans. They attend weekly worship services or a part of ministries that are the accumulation of years, decades, or centuries of accumulated evolution without undergoing real "Intelligent Design."

There's a pretty influential industrial designer named Dieter Rams. He designs stuff... physical possessions that cost far more than I'd be willing to spend. Regardless, in industrial design circles, he's kind of the man. He's famous for writing The Ten Commandments of Design, and for designing this radio. You can find these all over the net; here is the copy I'm working from.


So what if we assumed, just for the sake of discussion, that Good Design didn't just function for making stuff to fill your home, but also for making ministry decisions that really impact lives? What if design wasn't just an attribute of our objects, but also of our ministry? What would that look like?

So without further ado, I present the first three of Rams' Ten Commandments. Feel free to substitute his use of "product" with your ministry arena... "youth ministry,"
"Sunday morning worship," "small groups ministry," whatever. Take a look... what do you think?
1. Good design is innovative.

It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all functions of a product. The possibilities in this respect are by no means exhausted. Technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.

What if your youth ministry did not copy existing forms, but also refused to produce novelty for the sake of novelty? What would it take to make your class really innovative?
2. Good design makes the product useful.

A product is bought in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose – in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimise the utility of a product.

All of my theologian friends know that Paul declares all Scripture to be God-breathed... much ink has been spilled on that one. What's less clear to many, though, is how all Scripture can really be "useful," or that Paul would consider the utilitarian function of Scripture to be one of its highest attributes. The Bible isn't just a good book full of truth... it's also USEFUL! I am sick unto death of useless ministry. One of the things I love about my church is that we don't have much of it. But how do we ensure that the stuff we design is useful? What makes something useful?
3. Good design is aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product – and the fascination it inspires – is an integral part of its utility. Without doubt, it is uncomfortable and tiring to have to put up with products that are confusing, that get on your nerves, that you are unable to relate to. However, it has always been a hard task to argue about aesthetic quality, for two reasons.

Firstly, it is difficult to talk about anything visual, since words have a different meaning for different people.

Secondly, aesthetic quality deals with details, subtle shades, harmony and the equilibrium of a whole variety of visual elements. A good eye is required, schooled by years and years of experience, in order to be able to draw the right conclusion.

Ain't that the truth. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder... a worship set that one person loves feels overproduced to the next; a room setup that one finds inviting another finds pretentious. "Without doubt, it is uncomfortable and tiring to have to put up with products that are confusing, that get on your nerves, that you are unable to relate to." But how to gain the "years and years of experience" without going through them? How do you accelerate that process other than to make lots and lots of mistakes?

That's plenty long, for now. In parts 2 and 3 we'll tackle the rest of Deiter's 10 Commandments, but I can't be the only one thinking that he has far more to offer than how to build a better toaster. I'll end with a quote from my Reader:

If it’s a good idea and it gets you excited, try it, and if it bursts into flames, that’s going to be exciting too. People always ask, “What is your greatest failure?” I always have the same answer — We’re working on it right now, it’s gonna be awesome!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Warning: Implied Political Commentary

First off, allow me to say that this happens on both sides of the aisle... the Republicans did the same thing with the Patriot Act. So it's not an indictment of a specific party so much as an example of the degree to which our system is broken.

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee mocks the idea that members of Congress should read the bill before voting on it.



I love the implied corollary that even if they took the time to read it, members of Congress wouldn't be bright enough to understand it.

Can't say I disagree.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Look out! It's alive!

An old quote, but a great quote. From C.S. Lewis:

Men are reluctant to pass over from the notion of an abstract and negative deity to the living God. I do not wonder. Here lies the deepest tap-root of Pantheism and of the objection to traditional imagery. It was hated not, at bottom, because it pictured Him as a man but because it pictured Him as king, or even as warrior. The Pantheist’s God does nothing, demands nothing. He is there if you wish for Him, like a book on a shelf. He will not pursue you. There is no danger that at any time heaven and earth should flee away at His glance. If He were the truth, then we could really say that all the Christian images-of kingship were a historical accident of which our religion ought to be cleansed.

It is with a shock that we discover them to be indispensable. You have had a shock like that before, in connection with smaller matters –when the line pulls at your hand, when something breathes beside you in the darkness. So here; the shock comes at the precise moment when the thrill of life is communicated to us along the clue we have been following. It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out! ” we cry, “it’s alive.” And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back–I would have done so myself if I could–and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal God” -well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads –better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap –best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband-that is quite another matter.

There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (”Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My best steak ever

Ok, that was amazing. Cheap cut of beef = boring steak? Not so, my friend. That was the finest meal I've had in months, and dead simple. Steak, Monterrey potatoes, and corn on the cob. Here's my playbook. Try it sometime.

Corn on the Cob

Can't go wrong with midwestern sweet corn.

1. Shuck corn.
2. Put in water
3. Boil
4. Serve with light butter. Don't add salt, good corn doesn't need it.

Monterrey Potatoes

This makes perfect FirstWatch-style potatoes. You can use other seasonings (I've had good luck with salt-free Mrs. Dash), but I'm trying to finish off the Monterrey seasoning. We inherited it from someone cleaning out a spice cabinet, and we don't use it for anything else.

1. Slice half an onion and put it in a cast-iron skillet
2. Dice potatoes until skillet is full
3. Add olive oil and Monterrey seasoning, toss. Add (stovetop) heat. Scrape and mix every time the potatoes start to stick.

Steak

This technique is called "salting" but it's not what you think. The salt doesn't cook in; quite the opposite. It's used to make the steak more tender. I used a relatively inexpensive cut of beef... $2.10 a pound. Here's how to make it awesome.

1. Put the raw steak on a plate and COVER it with a large-grained salt (Kosher or Sea Salt). Keep adding salt until it's all white... you shouldn't see any red. Then flip it over and do it again.
2a. Let it sit.
2b. Let it sit some more. I know you're thinking it's going to ruin the taste of the steak, but it's not. The salt breaks down the proteins on the outside of the steak, making them more tender. Also, this will help trap moisture inside.
2c. Let it sit. For a 1-inch steak, go 30 minutes.
3. Wash steak thoroughly under the sink. Get rid of all of the salt. Pat dry with a paper towel.
4. Rub with olive oil.
5. Grill. Grind black pepper over both sides.

Serve and eat the dinner of champions.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

You're not so smart, you just show up a lot

I've really been enjoying a series of blog posts by Steve Blank. I have no idea who this guy is, but he's been rocking my world recently. The title of this post is taken from his most recent entries. You can find his blog here.

Steve is not, as far as I can tell, a Christian. He's a successful entrepreneur that is now retired from the biz and writing it up. I don't care at all about making stacks of money... my 2008 taxable income was HALF of what I made in 2004. Yay, ministry!

What's amazing, though, is the way that Steve's description of himself could just as well describe me, although he's far more successful. Steve is an entrepreneur. That's his identity. Maybe it's mine too.

He talks a lot about what it takes to make family work when you're an entrepreneur... I stand humbled. (See here and here). He talks about faith-based vision and fact-based execution, which is an interesting distinction for something I've pondered a long time. He talks about the curse of a new building... read that post and replace "office building" with "church building." Does anything change? Not a bit. It's hugely relevant.

Mostly, though, he talks about the mind of a "founder" and how it's different from the way other people think. This is hugely impacting my thinking right now, as it categorizes a lot of the stuff that's driven me crazy about myself over the years.

I don't do a good job at the slow, steady grind. I want to, and all of the people I respect are strong there. I've always seen it as a character flaw that I wanted to go start something new instead of building up the stuff that's already there. But that life is hard for me. It's hard for me to take the thing that's established and keep working at it... I want to get it most of the way there and then start the next thing.

Maybe this is a phase. Maybe I'll grow out of it. Maybe adding more discipline will eventually fix this in me.

But maybe I'm just wired different, and the stuff that excites me is different from the stuff that excites everyone else. I'm all in on the Kingdom, and I'm not interested in building anything else in the world. But I think I'm beginning to understand what my role is... and it's probably not the one I thought it was.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Who names their kid Ivan Odor?

My great-grandmother, that's who.

I'm totally wrung out. At the risk of using the blog as a boring tool for introspection and whining, allow me to say I'm closing out the hardest week I've had in a while. Earlier in the week we took what was supposed to be a vacation to Canada, but now I know why families with young kids often vacation at home. I did two weddings yesterday, which was awesome but exhausting (physically and emotionally).

But the weird thing that I still can't wrap my head around is that my grandfather died Friday at 9pm and Judi's grandfather died yesterday (Saturday) at 2pm. Two guys with nothing in common except great grandkids... 17 hours apart. What are the odds of that?

We'd planned for a quiet Father's Day at home to recupe from the week, but decided it made more sense to hang at mom and dad's, since the whole fam is coming to town for the funeral.

On my way from church to the house, I thought "Oh, this will be great. We'll be up at the house, so grandma and grandpa will be able to come over and see Jenna and Liam." And then I remembered that grandpa wouldn't be there.

I think sometimes grief looks like exhaustion. Good thing it's a nice, quiet week coming up at work. I don't have anything on my schedule except something called Summer of Service.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dance Like You're Unstoppable

This is the best thing I've seen all week. One insane (probably drunk) dude having a ball at an outdoor concert/music festival ends up getting over a hundred people to dance.



Imagine if the dude had stopped dancing 30 seconds earlier.
Imagine if the second guy hadn't come, or the third.
Imagine if any of them had the presence of mind to realize "Holy cow, I look like an idiot."

I identify with Mr. Random Anonymous Dancer, and not just because he stole some of my best moves. On my very best days, this is what ministry feels like. The crazy awkward lonely grind at first, but the huge party as time goes on.

The trick is to keep going when you're all by yourself.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Robert Putnam and Social Capital

So one of the guys I find interesting, Robert Putnam, got a shout-out at VCC this past week. Putnam's not a Christian, but he's a big fan of churches... especially big evangelical megachurches. Here's a quote from a recent article about him:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/jul/18/communities.guardiansocietysupplement

Across many of these issues, Putnam's old interest, social capital, features. As he demonstrated in Bowling Alone, social capital has a crucial impact on crime reduction, educational achievement, even life expectancy. His research had exposed steep declines in all forms of social capital across much of the developed world, which he detailed in Bowling Alone with its central image of the end of US bowling leagues, but Putnam maintains he is "optimistic about social capital".

What fascinates him is tracking where the new forms of social capital are developing and why they are successful. One of his key areas of interest is religion - religious affiliations account for half of all US social capital. He cites US megachurches which, typically, attract tens of thousands of members, as "the most interesting social invention of late 20th century."

He identifies the secret of their success: "They have very low barriers to entry - the doors are open, there are folding chairs out on the patio - they make it very easy to surf by. You can leave easily. But then they ramp people up to a huge commitment - at some megachurches, half of all members are tithing [giving a tenth of their income]. How do they get from the low to the high commitment? By a honeycomb structure of thousands of small groups: they have the mountain bikers for God group, the volleyball players for God, the breast cancer survivors for God, the spouses of the breast cancer survivors for God, and so on.

"The intense tie is not to the theology but in the emotional commitment to others in their small group. Most of these people are seeking meaning in their lives but they are also seeking friends. The small groups spend two hours a week together - doing the volleyball or the mountain biking and praying; they become your closest friends," he says.

"These churches form in places of high mobility - people live there for six weeks and the church provides the community connection. When you lose your job, they'll tide you over, when your wife gets ill, they'll bring the chicken soup."


Like I said, interesting. I'm pretty widely studied on small groups in America, and I don't think he's totally got a firm grasp on it in terms of group identification. I'm also somewhat skeptical that most other non-religious organizations will be able to fully utilize a small group structure. Still, a pretty interesting perspective from a very smart outsider.

He has a book coming out this year that I'm really looking forward to.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shameless Broadcasting of Personal Info



It took far longer than we expected, but once again I'm a daddy. Holy cow is it amazing. Liam Nathaniel was born Wednesday evening... a healthy 9 lbs, 3.4 oz. Judi's doing great. Those who know us may remember that Jenna's birth was pretty rough, but this one went fine.

They held Liam an extra day because he had a heart murmur and he failed his hearing check. Both cleared up by the following day, so they released us this morning.

God is so good. Thanks a ton to all of our friends who supported us (or just offered to). We were well-covered this time because my parents and Judi's parents were both in town to help with Jenna-care.

Jenna's first look at Liam.



The three most important people in my life.


I love you all (well, most of you) and look forward to introducing you to my son!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The blog post where I briefly rant

Let's take it as a given that none of us will ever buy GM ever again. That's a given, right? We're all on a lifelong boycott? I mean, any company who flat-out admits that they're too incompetent to design a car that people will buy is one you don't want to buy from.

Add in the fact that the incompetent company decided NOT to spend all of its assets on trying to build better cars, and instead spent that money lobbying Congress and begging from taxpayers is a company I really don't want to have any part of. But to have the chutzpah to come back to the trough THREE TIMES? How poorly-run do you need to be to come back begging THREE TIMES?

I hate the fact that my tax money bought this commercial. And it's not even a good commercial. So seeing it 4 times in 30 minutes tends to make me snippy.



"You know what America needs?" Better car companies, apparently.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We're not gonna have that around here.

Hilarious.

A very dangerous game

Planarity.

http://www.planarity.net/game.php?size=small


The entire game is just untangling a knot. But it gets much harder as you go up in levels. Give the link a click, if you have an hour to kill.

Well, that gets rid of a ton of the stuff I've had sitting in my queue. I'll put some more out tomorrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hitchens and Craig go head-to-head

Haven't read it yet, won't get a chance to read it until this weekend. But a brief skim looks promising! Enjoy!

http://www.tothesource.org/4_8_2009/4_8_2009.htm

Primates on Facebook

I logged into Facebook yesterday and said to Judi "Do I really have this many friends?" I don't pursue anybody on Facebook... it's been a long time since I've initiated a friend request. Do I really even know this many people?

So it was fun to read this recent article in the Economist, which argues that no matter how many FaceBookFriends we have, our actual capacity for human interaction has remained relatively stable.

What also struck Dr Marlow, however, was that the number of people on an individual’s friend list with whom he (or she) frequently interacts is remarkably small and stable. The more “active” or intimate the interaction, the smaller and more stable the group.

Thus an average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”. An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16.


http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13176775

Crazy... it's almost as if a core relational group does best with around 7 to 10 members. Now where have I heard that before...

I blame the young people!

They are the cause of the downfall of America!

Or not.

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2009/04/the_wrong_booge_1.html

I tend to feel like Skye buys into too much hype, but in this case he does a great job of picking apart a stupid argument.

From reading Mohler's numerous posts about singleness and delayed marriage, he appears to be saying that if immature, selfish, and lazy young adults (and many of us are) would just get married and have kids they’d be forced to “grow up.” Unfortunately, my experience has proven the opposite. I’ve seen too many young families torn apart (both Christian and non) because a husband or wife proved to lack the maturity required for a stable marriage. Simply walking the aisle, saying the vows, and sharing a bed and bank account did not magically bring maturity. If marriage really is the prescribed avenue for maturity, as some have been promoting, then shouldn't the church be advocating more teen marriages?


Well worth reading. You'll thank me later.

"The methods change but the message stays the same"

VERY interesting. I'd been pretty skeptical of the new book "Flickering Pixels" but this interview with the author is making me reconsider.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6QiyElRG3c

Clearing out my queue...

I have a ton of stuff that I've meant to sit down and process rationally, but I haven't had time. And since our son is due any day, I'm not likely to have time in the future. Thus, today's onslaught of interesting things with little commentary.

Off we go!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

In defense of work

This was fun... especially fun to read after I spent the morning digging out stumps in my backyard.



http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/477

Monday, March 23, 2009

Want to see what I've been reading?

I use Google Reader's "Share" feature to pass on the things that I find interesting. Want to see what I've been reading? Click the "Shared from Reader" tab up and to the right to see my Reader feed.

Also, note that it has RSS feed attached, so you can put it in your RSS reader of choice.

You ARE using RSS, aren't you
?

I wish I could write

I occasionally binge on fiction. It's like green vegetables, really: I'll go for weeks without remembering that I need them to function. Then I'll sit down for dinner, have a small bite of something green, and then proceed to eat every vegetable in the house. I know it would be healthier to just eat more veggies at every meal, but somehow my mind hasn't gotten the memo yet.

Fiction is worse (and better) than vegetables. I'll go for months without ingesting stories, have a small nibble of one, and then suddenly realize that I've been starving to death. And every time I read, I wish I could write. It's the same feeling you get watching Steve make tables... it's the hunger to create.

Here's a great example of a really short story. Seems like it would be easy to write something this short, but it's not. I've tried. If brevity is the soul of wit, then this thing has some serious soul.

Dwar Ev ceremoniously soldered the final connection with gold. The eyes of a dozen television cameras watched him and the sub-ether bore through the universe a dozen pictures of what he was doing.

He straightened and nodded to Dwar Reyn, then moved to a position beside the switch that would complete the contact when he threw it. The switch that would connect, all at once, all of the monster computing machines of all the populated planets in the universe—ninety-six billion planets—into the supercircuit that would connect them all into one supercalculator, one cybernetics machine that would combine all the knowledge of all the galaxies.

Dwar Reyn spoke briefly to the watching and listening trillions. Then after a moment's silence he said, "Now, Dwar Ev."

Dwar Ev threw the switch. There was a mighty hum, the surge of power from ninety-six billion planets. Lights flashed and quieted along the miles-long panel.

Dwar Ev stepped back and drew a deep breath. "The honor of asking the first question is yours, Dwar Reyn."

"Thank you," said Dwar Reyn. "It shall be a question which no single cybernetics machine has been able to answer."

He turned to face the machine. "Is there a God?"

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.

"Yes, now there is a God."

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.


http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/13-TheBalticWarCD/TheBalticWarCD/The%20World%20Turned%20Upside%20Down/0743498747__17.htm

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This is pretty amazing

The mashup is not a new art form. I've been a DJ Riko fan for a long time. But this is taking that to a whole new level. We're talking major composition, here, using Youtube as an instrument. Watch this right now:



In a completely unrelated note, are you familiar with the excellent service called ZamZar? It takes any media source on the internet--video or audio--and transcodes it to any format you want. I'm not saying I *HAVE* done this, since it's legally murky, but one could, if they were so inclined, take all of Katiman's "Thru-You" clips (since "Mother of all Funk Chords" is only the first of seven), run them through Zamzar, get them as MP3s, and drop them into your music player of choice.

I'm just sayin'.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A great thought from one of my favorite feeds

If you don't have Andy Crouch's "Culture Making" blog in your RSS reader, you should add it right now. And if you don't have an RSS reader, stop what you're doing and read this link immediately. It's 2009, peeps. Newspaper is dead and TV is dying. It's time to make the transition to better ways of getting your news.

But as I said, here's a great quote from Andy's book review of Rob Walker's new book "Buying In." I've added my own emphases:

Here, then, is the real problem with the argument that this new generation sees right through traditional advertising and therefore is not fooled by its messages: Everybody sees right through traditional advertising. You’d have to be an idiot not to recognize that you’re being pitched to when watching a thirty-second commercial.

But recognition is not the same thing as immunity. And what’s striking about contemporary youth is not that they are somehow brandproof, but that they take for granted the idea that a brand is as good a piece of raw identity material as anything else. These are the consumers, in fact, who are most amenable to using brands to fashion meaning for themselves—to define themselves, to announce who they are and what they stand for.


Great thoughts. I've already added the book to my amazon wishlist, but maybe it needs to move to the top.

Monday, March 2, 2009

And we're off!

To Louisville, KY. My very favorite sister has accepted a job in L-town, which moves her from Laguna Beach to 100 miles from my doorstep. CA's loss is our gain.

She doesn't actually move until April, but Judi and I are heading down to help her shop for apartments. Two days out of town should be good for us.

Judi and I have our best discussions while driving in the car. Forget candlelit dinners: when we need to reconnect emotionally, the best thing for us is a long drive. Before Jenna, we used to have date nights where we'd gas up the car and drive around town all night. Bad for our carbon footprint, sure, but great for our relationship.

I love the woman I married, and look forward to two days of driving around Louisville looking for a place for my sister. God is good.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The most amazing two minutes of basketball I've seen in years

Look, I don't care if you watch basketball. I don't care if you think the college game is more "pure" than the pros. Watch this clip. LeBron James scores 16 points in 2 minutes. That's just nuts.



Best player on the planet.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What does a stimulus get ya?

Here's a list of the stimulus projects here in Cincinnati.

http://www.stimuluswatch.org/project/by_city/Cincinnati/OH

Stimuluswatch.org is a scary site to play around on.

And thus ends my political commentary.

Wow.

One of the most mind-blowing things I've read in a while.

"Is Food the New Sex?"

http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/38245724.html

What happens when, for the first time in history, adult human beings are free to have all the sex and food they want?

...

Betty thinks food is a matter of taste, whereas sex is governed by universal moral law; and Jennifer thinks exactly the reverse.

Safe for work, I promise. But I'm going to be pondering that for weeks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ever have company show up in fancy clothes and the house is a mess?

That's what it's like to get linked by Rachel when I've had no deep thoughts for weeks. Her readers are interested in weightier issues than curse generators. Whoops.

They're here because Rachel re-posted something I wrote back in November about visiting the creation museum. As I read it again, I realized I'd never followed through on my promise to give some of my creation/evolution backstory. It begins thusly:

===

When I was in third grade, my teacher tried to teach us the concept of rhetorical questions. "It's a question that has no answer," she said, "like 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg?'" I didn't get it. "The chicken came first," I said, "because God made the chicken, and the chicken made the egg." Simple deductions by a simple child who became a simple adult.

Well this threw the teacher into a rage the likes of which I've never seen from an elementary school teacher. She canceled the lesson plan for the rest of the week to teach about the importance of evolution. The problem was that she wasn't much of a scientist. The crowning statement, which I've always remembered, was her explanation of the evolution of lizards into birds: "Birds used to be lizards," she said, "and we know that because if you talk to someone who's eaten rattlesnake they'll tell you it tastes like chicken."

The obvious, unavoidable conclusion that I drew from this was that anyone who believed in evolution must be an idiot. Plus, she embarrassed me in front of the whole class, and I wasn't about to take that. So I started reading every book I could find on "Creationism." There's actually a lot of good literature out there that shows weaknesses in classic Darwinian theory. And I read it all. It's part of what shaped a love of science in me... every time we got to a new unit in science class I'd think "Ah, so this is what that chapter of [Creation Book X] was about."

So when I got to high school, my teachers had no chance. I didn't have a school board on my side, but I embarrassed the teachers if they taught evolution. There are just too many easy jabs that completely tie somebody up. One got so mad that he flipped out and brought in three feet of science books. "Micah," he said, "each one of these books is about evolution." And I asked "Do any of them explain blah blah blah? Because that seems like a dealbreaker." Class laughs, teacher livid, evolution unit canceled. Lesson learned: just because the books exist doesn't mean your teacher has read them.

I was out of college before I realized that the creation theory I'd held earlier in life had some significant logical flaws. But the sad thing was that in every debate I'd ever had on the subject, not one person had ever brought them up. Not one evolutionist had ever bothered to try understanding my side enough to see the weaknesses in my position. They just had silly straw-man arguments mixed with a lot of "Christians are stupid bible-thumpers that don't understand science."

What I realized was that most people don't understand evolution any more than they understand creation. They take the thing by faith. Their faith is in "science" (or, more accurately, scientists) instead of "the Bible" (or, more accurately, Bible commentators), but it's just as much a blind faith as the most rabid fundamentalist. They're just a different kind of fundamentalist.

===

My friend Tim chastised me last month for being cynical, since cynicism is a product of pride and disdain. He's right, of course. But corner-dwellers and fundamentalists of all stripes make me incredibly frustrated. It's not hard to find a position opposite your own; if you've only ever considered your own worldview it just means you're lazy. Faith doesn't mean running forward with your eyes closed, it means putting your trust in something or someone that you've found to be trustworthy.

Trust is an incredible commodity. A fundamentalist (no matter what their spiritual, religious, or political persuasion) can't truly trust, because they can't really imagine reality being different from their expectations. To attack the popular metaphor, sitting down in a chair (or turning on a light, or whatever) isn't really faith until you've had the chair break to pieces under you.

Faith is when you've had a chair collapse under you but you still sit down into it. Faith is when you have seen first-hand the ugliness of life but still believe that God can bring beauty out of it, because that is what God does. Again and again and again, that is what God does.

And so my faith does not dictate that the world is thousands of years old, or billions. I'm completely comfortable with either a young or old earth. But if it could be conclusively proven tomorrow that the universe was "young," that still wouldn't force people to put their trust in God. A relationship with the Creator cannot ever be fully explained or understood; it must be experienced.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Curses

So it's always a little odd to me to watch the way Christians use curse words. My theory is that there are at least two different parts to cussing: 1. the "uncontrolled tongue" part that has to shout an expletive, and 2. the taboo nature of the word.

That's really poor English. Let me try again.

I had a buddy in high school who, when he hit his thumb with a hammer, would yell "Cheese and Rice"instead of Jesu Christo. Ok, points for not "using the Lord's name in vain" although that's not what that verse is about.

It seems to me, though, that if you're so angry that you have to yell, "shoot" is about the same as "sh*t." "Darn" doesn't seem far different from "d@mn." I'm not advocating the latter, I'm questioning the use of the former.

Ahh, whatever. This soliloquy was really just filler so that I could introduce the coolest thing I've seen this week: The Biblical Curse Generator.

May you be mocked by eunuchs, O thou lazy Babylonian!

Hear this, O ye lying Girgashite, for you will be cast onto a steaming dung-heap!

Brilliant.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Drive Home: A Story in Three Acts

So we finished up a pretty amazing night at the Lift, I went out to IHOP (House of Pancakes, not House of Prayer) with some friends, and from there I went straight home. No problem, right?

And so our story begins.

ACT I - A Troubling Observation

I didn't notice this until I got to the highway, but my lights weren't really throwing much light out there. Actually, they weren't throwing hardly any at all. I turned them on and off a few times to be sure, but there was no change. Stop and check, and lo and behold I had so many layers of ice and snow over my lights that they couldn't shine. A few well-placed kicks and punches and the ice trembled before me. Good to go.

ACT II - Musical Interlude

As I drove home I was flipping through the radio. Yes, I know what I said tonight about the importance of being comfortable with silence, but I was in the mood for music. I skip ahead to the next station and hear a great guitar solo, and decided to listen to the rest of the song. It's Chris Rock's summer song (the Sweet Home Alabama knockoff), and I was shocked to realize that sometime since I heard it last (over the summer) they've started beeping out part of the song. There's no cursing, so I listened again just to hear what was cut. It was the word "smoking." Specifically, "smoking funny things," but they only cut the one word.

I was blown away. So, yeah, it's a drug reference. I get that. It implies that the dude was using weed. But he flat-out says he was drinking drinking whiskey every day (at 19) and sleeping with a 17-year-old (which means she was a minor while he was not). So I'm trying to comprehend the mind of the censor board. Underage alcoholism and statutory rape doesn't cause an eyeblink, but say "smoking" and we're gonna have to censor the song.

America is so weird.

ACT III - Parking the Car

Short version: the time between when I got within 20 feet of the house and the time when I got into the door was over an hour.

To understand this next bit you'll need to look at a map. You'll also need to understand that Lehman goes along the ridgeline of Price Hill and is thus relatively flat, while Claypole is moderately steep and Wing is quite steep. Hit Street View if you don't believe me.


View Larger Map

I drove almost all the way home via Lehman, dropped down Wing and went up Claypole (which is my street), but couldn't quite get there no matter how hard I gunned it. So I decided to park at the school (CCU) and walk. I backed all the way down the hill and tried to drive up Wing. No dice. So I backed down Wing, turned around at Claypole, and drove down Wing to Glenway. A block down Glenway was the main entrance to CCU, but halfway up I realized I probably wouldn't make it. There was a car ahead of me that was stuck, and a car got stuck behind me. So we all three turned around and drove back down to Glenway, over to Grand (I warned them about Wing), up to Lehman, and into CCU via the back entrance.

Then I got stuck trying to park. It took me 40 minutes of rocking back and forth, pushing, gunning it park and reverse, and finally borrowing a snowshovel and digging my car out before I was finally able to park the car.

I walked in my front door at 11:47. What a night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Random Something I Wrote

So last summer I was asked to chip in an article for a CCU newsletter. This is what I wrote.

==============

Think back, if you can, to your first high-school breakup. Besides my own experience at getting dumped, I've probably been on the phone or across the table with a dozen different teenage and college guys who have just gotten "the talk." There's angst, usually. A little anger, a lot of confusion, and a loving spoonful of self-pity. The details usually vary. But in almost every one of those situations, there's one rock-solid certainty: no one understands. This breakup is totally unique, and unlike any other in history. Those who feel otherwise are just showing how little they understand.

Recently, I’ve felt eerie echoes of this sentiment while working with young adults here in Cincinnati. Not from the men and women of my ministry, necessarily, but from the thinkers and the writers of the Christian world. I keep reading that the Postmoderns (and after them, the Millennials) are a new people, a new generation. They think differently, work differently, and want different things from life and from Church. Walk into your local Christian bookseller or check on Amazon… there are a lot of people writing books about “bridging the generational divide,” and a lot of people buying them.

A few years ago, I read one of the classic (if an eight-year-old book can be called a “classic”) books on the subject: Postmodern Pilgrims, by Leonard Sweet. In the book, Sweet takes the position that a church trying to reach Postmoderns must be “EPIC:” Experiential, Participatory, Image-Rich, and Connected. These four letters, he contends, are the key to understanding today’s emerging culture and the people in it, and the church needs to adapt or face irrelevance.



The church needs to be “Experiential,” because the young adults of today don’t just want to understand truth, they want to experience it. The church must be “Participatory,” because postmoderns don’t want to simply sit and receive, they want to be engaged in what’s going on around them. The church must be “Image-Rich,” because the core concepts of this generation aren’t just words and phrases, but pictures. Finally, the church must allow its people to be “Connected,” because young adults long deeply for real community.

All of these things are true of almost every young adult I’ve spent time with over the past three years. There’s a problem here, though. These things are also true of my grandparents.

My grandparents attend a small church in a small town in central Michigan. They live in a house they’ve paid for, have a vegetable garden and a rose patch, and manage to get by while on a fixed income. I love them and respect them, but they’re not the cutting edge. When I hear people talk about the distinctives of the upcoming generation, I always ask myself “Fine, but is it also true of Ivan and Doris?” If so, it simply can’t be a distinctive of a particular age group.
My grandparents have probably forgotten more about community and connectedness than I’ll ever learn. They’ve modeled a participatory and experiential Christianity for three generations: they’ve never sat on the sidelines. They may not have icons in the church, but they have pictures of us plastered over their walls. “EPIC” doesn’t describe the youths of today, it describes the fundamental longings of the human heart.

That’s not to say that young adults don’t make up a different crowd in your church, or that you won’t need to reach them in different ways. But most of the differences have to do with “place in life” more than “generation.” Most of what’s left has to do with technological changes and the societal changes that go with them. So yes, your young adults think nothing of posting personal details on Facebook. They have short attention spans and little patience. They don’t have the perspective and maturity that forty (or sixty) years can give you. But in their hearts, they long for the same things we all long for: to know and be known, to be included in an adventure, and to understand the purpose of One who made them.

That doesn’t make them different from everyone else in your church. It makes them the same.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Your God is Too Small

JB Phillips absolutely nailed it. We like a God we can wrap our head around... one small enough for us to understand. That's why I love this clip. We do this all the time, even if we don't recognize it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Public Service Announcement: How to Read a Blog

It's come to my attention that some people (whom I shall not name) actually read blogs by directing their browser (either manually or using a bookmark) to the web address (for example, http://mrodor.blogspot.com) and then checking to see if there's anything new. Some of these people have a whole raft of blogs that they follow, and they surf to each one to see what's up.

I weep for these people.

Here is my good deed for the year: I'm telling you all to use an RSS reader. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and every blog that exists puts out an RSS feed. RSS basically means that instead of having to check back every ten minutes to see if "Sean Call-me-chief" Murphy has new pictures of his kids posted, you can instead let those pictures to come to you.

In my biased opinion, the best RSS reader is Google Reader. But there's plenty of good ones out there... Bloglines is another popular web-based one, and NetNewsWire and Omea are popular for Mac and Windows, respectively.

It's the internet, folks. Don't spend time looking for something... make the information come to you.

Elijah


So last night at the Lift we kicked off a month of talking about Elijah (mp3s should be up soon). The dude is a puzzle. One moment he's calling out a wicked king, the next minute he's running for his life. He goes to a cut-out hole in the desert east of the Jordan, and stays there by a brook. He drinks stagnant pond water and eats food from the mouths of scavenging birds. It's not nearly as cool as the picture makes it look.

And then he waits there for God to move him again. I hate waiting. I hate feeling like I'm just sitting on the shelf, unable to contribute. That's why I love the Vineyard... even before I was on staff, I felt that God had things for me to do there. That I didn't need to wait for life to start. That the kingdom is coming NOW, not at some random point in the future.

Sometimes I wait because God has me in a place and I can't leave until I learn something. But often I wait because I lack the initiative to get up and go.

Aught Nine is, for me, the year of not waiting. At least that's the plan. If God is on the move, why am I sitting around?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A New Year's Joke

Yes, dear readers (both of you), I know I've been neglecting you. It's going to continue until the weekend, at least. Please stop crying, you know I can't handle tears. So I give you this, to tide you over.

What do John the Baptist and Winnie the Pooh have in common?










Same middle name.