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, 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.


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.