Thursday, November 30, 2006

Woes of SD

For Christmas, my brother-in-law got Kat and I both 2GB SD expansion cards. Sweet deal! says I. Now I can move my 256MB card to my mp3 player and have more than 8 songs when I go jogging (albeit, not often enough). But, as I do, I spoke too loudly, and the Palm Triumvirate heard from afar. Not so fast! says Palm. With the frustrations of my Zire 31 not reading the 2gig card, I began to search for answers. And thus, the report on SD compatibility. Does also strike you as odd that Palm has to test their products to be compatible with certain hardware? One would think that the designers would be able to say, "We didn't design it for that." Or, they could play the Bill Gates trump card and simply design all their own stuff that's already compatible. And then they could design and release a new version every year or so, then re-release it without all the bugs. But, I digress....

So, no full albums and hours and hours of music to go with my limited PDA battery life. Sigh...there are worse problems in the world. But, it's fun to pretend I'm a tech geek and fool around with these things with foolishly approximated know-how. I suppse that you now know, SD is not South Dakota. I've never been, but would like to go. If you feel like sending me to experience Rushmore and....the rest of South Dakota, I'm accepting personal checks.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

We Shall Gather at the River

Church today was one of those times when I know I should've been paying attention, but the ability to focus seemed so confounded by every little slip and slurp in the flow of the meeting. The kids singing, the drama team, and the pastor - it all felt so unfocused. Bless them. Their hearts desire worship, and if not, we can't judge, and we can't correct without the proper leading. But, it made me begin to think about why we meet together.

Why is it that we should "not give up meeting together?" What is it about community that facilitates worship? What is it about corporate worship that is so important? And, given this query, do we accomplish, expedite, or hinder, by our actions and methods, the process of such achievement? Forgive me, I have mostly questions here. Since Kat and I are in between churches at this point, I feel more apt to ask - or at least think out loud. My thoughts here are that we meet together that we may become well acquainted with the strengths, weaknesses, faults, victories, and loves of one another, that we may pray for grace to bear with each person. We associate that we may actively edify one another in our common pursuit: the Glory of God in Christ. Activity is key here. We must not be a Kingdom 'Us', but, as my friend Brantley so eloquently put, a Kingdom 'We'.

These are only the first of my thoughts on this. I write them in order to ask your thoughts? Why do you think we meet together? Why together? Why singing? Why preaching? Why drama and videos and music and arts? What is it that is singular about this process? What cannot be achieved except in this weekly (or however many times your group meets) togetherness that brings an entire community into one room? And, do we achieve it?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One Flesh

This past election, Tennessee voted overwhelmingly to ban future legislation concerning the legalization of gay marriage. The staunch 'humph' in the air feels like many people think that they banned gay marriage (and, indirectly, they did). I could always be wrong, but that's how it feels. What they banned, however, was merely future state legislation. If there is any issue which divides people more, I would say that it was gay marriage. This is a sticky situation.

The whole thing has caused me to question my own marriage, and what my marriage (and marriage in general) constitutes. I ask myself: if the government took away hospital visitation rights between myself and my wife, would we be as an unmarried couple? If we could not indicate certain criteria on our W-2, would we be guilty of adultery? These are the two examples I can think of, but I'm sure there are more. My conclusion is that nothing that would have been legislated over was truly indicative of a marriage. My only problem (that, indeed, would certainly have come up sooner or later, and might yet) was with the ability of gay couples to adopt children. It is not for me to say if people can or cannot Love, but I cannot abide the deliberate raising of children without a father-figure or a mother-figure. There are certain things that only the same-sex parent can teach to a child; and the same is true for the opposite-sex parent.

Now, I know that the inevitable questioning will come regarding homosexuality and the Bible. To tell you the truth, I welcome it. I can say that God condemns homosexuality, but to those who jump to quickly to the bandwagon, I will say that God also condemns not Loving Him infinitely. We, in our sinfulness, are unable to do this. We were born without the ability. Only in the provision and grace of Christ can we Love God as He commands. Furthermore, my wife and I do not trust our marriage fully to sex any more than we do to paying the bills. Our identity, as individuals and as a representational God-and-Church union is found in Christ. Thank God! For we certainly fall short if we even make it to 'short'. I don't think that, on the whole, gay couples spend all their time having sex either (if you're under twelve, you should have probably stopped reading ten minutes ago). But let's explore a thought for a minute...

I recently borrowed Return of the King from some friends and laughed and cried through it again (often, the two coincide). One striking aspect was the exploration of the relationship between Frodo and Sam. As actors, Elijah and Sean are very good at being unabashed in many areas (notice Sean Astin in Click), but the characters were close in a loving, and yet quite heterosexual way that the world almost never explores, notices, recognizes, nor understands. The unfortunate thing is that the church has fallen short in this holy brother/sister-hood as well. I will speak only for men (because.......I'm not a woman). As men, we are often uncomfortable with physicality beyond shaking hands and the 'sideways' hug. Few men are willing to fully hug one another. Fewer are willing to kiss one another. I, if you've read Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages, am a very physically oriented person. I confessed to a friend that I am often nearly overtaken by the desire to embrace and kiss my friends, both men and women. It often prevents me from looking people in the eyes, lest I should succumb to this politically incorrect expression of Love, and be thought of as either gay, crazy, or pretentious - even though I've been spoken of as all three anyway.

Perhaps, at least in part, the gay community is reaching for an expression of love that the church has treated with general neglect. Perhaps (and again I speak for men), gay men reach for a love that is a fickle and traitorous shadow of that Love which Jesus bore for the apostles, and indeed bears for us.

In all this, I can't say that I support the legislative ban on legislation on the rights of gay couples as couples, since most things that had the possibility of being legislated had nothing to do with marriage as a Blessed Unity. Most of them had to do with marriage as an institution (which always changes). And even the government believes in that Magic, the Magic that is Love from the Source of Love (though they don't understand it or speak of it), and realizes that certain things cannot be written down. This is quite well indicated by the recognition of a 7+year co-habitation as a Common Law Marriage. Furthermore, there are quite a few non-family persons that I would want to have full access to my hospital room were I sick or dying, legislation or no. There are many more angles to this issue, but it is late, and long have I blogged.

Those of you who want to string me up now can easily find where I live. Release the hounds, let the manhunt begin.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dear Yenta

Reading Gary Shavey's blog on the recent Revolution Conference (of which I knew nothing) led me on a link-clicking trail of breadcrumbs to find out who this Spencer Burke character was. I found his latest post on the eZine of sorts that he founded: The Ooze. Spencer's big beef was.....well, actually, let's set that aside. In his article, I really felt like Burke's focus was a little off. Allow me an explanation.

Years ago, I took issue with the methodology of, an internet dating site. I was frustrated by their commercials that seemed to reveal a common-interest method of introducing people to one another. Furthermore, Focus on the Family backed them wholeheartedly. I felt almost slighted. I don't think that people should be married based simply on their common appreciation for good war movies or Italian food. My wife and I, to be honest, share very few common interests. And indeed, it feels that we are often polar opposites in our personalities. I feel that God puts people together like this to create a balanced, more able whole out of the two halves. I can really only speak for us, but this is not a story that I haven't heard from other couples, and I think it also provides the two with a chance to better express love in the form of self-sacrifice. While eHarmony's actual methods are not in question (I don't particularly know what they are, in fact), my biggest problem with Spencer Burke's article was that I felt that he treated the Church this way.

While, in the midst of church-hunting (your prayer is greatly appreciated that we would adamantly seek Christ and his glory and his guidance), I feel that there is something as yet unknown to me to be gained from being with aesthetically like-minded people (perhaps the unknown is merely an ease of transition into the local church), our like-mindedness often only goes as far as the Gospel. And I don't think that this is, of necessity, a failure. The glorious calico of the Church finds its beauty in the ability of the Spirit to bring unity where unity is important, and to bring grace, love, and appreciation where it is not. We don't need a hundred of me every day anymore than we need a hundred of you. One of each will do, as that's all God has seen fit to create.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Listen to the Music

As you might have noticed, there is a wealth of new music down and to the right. I quite suggest that you look well into it. After braving the rain-happy concrete oceans of West Knoxville, I finally came to a last-ditch effort to find an album, any album by The Blue Nile, whose listenership includes Over the Rhine, Annie Lennox, and Peter Gabriel, among others. The UK-based trio taunted me with their MySpace page full of therapeutic musical liqueurs, and I was forced to search high and low for an album. After seeking out The Disc Exchange, Cats, and even Borders, I finally came crawling to McKay's, hoping against hope that some treasure would lurk within the vulture-picked bones of the cd racks. And lo, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the three albums you see below. Three jewels missed by the hungry hordes of ecstatic listeners (of course, including The Blue Nile). I was suddenly every kid with a Christmas present...

But that's not what I'm writing to tell you. What I mean to say goes something like this:

I played a show recently with my dear friend and fellow pilgrim Arthur Alligood. It was the opening show for a new venue called The V Cafe, run by a Vineyard Church in north Knox County. In the midst of the fun, we exchanged cds. I got his new full-length album "Under the Gray" and he got my cd. I told him I thought I came out with the better end of the deal, and I stick by it.

Arthur has created an album that will take you into his closet to realize that you're not alone in these doubting crucibles of the journey of Christian faith. He joyfully lifts the burden of self-salvation with the addictive chorus of "All the While," cutting through your defenses with Eric Peters' haunting harmonies. He lets us glimpse the world of being enamored with the awful picture of Christ in "Not Like Us," then rocks out two songs later with "Broken," to which I will probably end up shamelessly dancing to when no one else is around. The whole album, furthermore is undercut with a babbling brook of Andrew Osenga's whispering electric guitar. Ben Nolen rounds out perfectly on drums, and the guest list includes great songwriters like the aforementioned Eric Peters, Greg Adkins, and Jason Feller. I haven't even finished listening to the whole cd yet. It's probably going to play over and over until I know every line by heart...

"Linger long
Let it all set it.
Life is living once,
Life is living once again."

        -Arthur Alligood, Under the Gray

Oh, and because I'm a geek, the new Harry Potter movie comes out next July 13th.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Coffee and Tools

Withth the growing trend of church-operated coffeehouses springing up across the country, it seems that, as with many things, the successful, the failed, the forthright, and the pretentious have developed. Perhaps the caffeinated tide flows in response to the overwhelming growth of the missional and emergent movements, especially in metropolises where relational evangelism has become a response to the perceived pyramid style of some large church bodies. Whatever the reason, the unfortunate byproduct of this cascade of businesses is the propagation of coffeehouses that simply don’t meet the standards of those run outside of church regulation. Relationships are not cultivated beyond those already existing within the particular church, art is not embraced as a unique form of communication, and these businesses are not the community centers that they are intended to be. Secondarily, this creates a misuse of church budgets, an aversion from musical and visual artists, and a general air of disinterest. Granted, the idea itself is a phenomenal one. Coffeehouses, after all, are wonderful tools with which to foster discussion and a safe, understanding environment. They are historically attributed with the creation of the first newspapers.

While the church as a whole should be discouraged from being a subculture rather than a counterculture, if this trend is going to continue, it ought to continue in a manner that cultivates community, relationships, knowledge, and an attitude of support. Use of the vogue is does not guarantee the patronization of the public or the opportunity to bring “Judea and Samaria” to you. Here are a few ideas that can be put into practice:

    -Remember that this is a business created to generate opportunities to share faith. It is not an auto-evangelizer. Plus, smart business practices (returned profits, great customer service, networking) still apply.

    -An active community presence can create a larger customer base, and build great relationships with other business owners.

    -Have a knowledgeable staff. It’s a coffeehouse, so don’t just have someone to pour Folgers and Folgers decaf. Encourage your staff to always learn about coffee, tea, and your other products.

    -Support artists. The poetry of art can have an impact that a four-point sermon cannot. Treat your artists well, and network with them.

    -If you’re going to have music, create the right environment for artists. Good songwriters and performers usually prefer a little help with sound, an emcee, and good publicity (that is, appropriate to your customer base). Imagine what would help them connect well with an audience, and if you don’t know, ask.

    -Be willing to spend money. Artists often will play for free, but don’t expect that of them. For many artists, that is their only income. Plus, good coffee doesn’t come cheap. It went up 50¢ per pound in fall 2006.

    -Have good theology, and a loving tongue. You will, if you cultivate discussion (and you should), run into all sorts of ideas. Know when to speak (and when to be silent) and what to say.

    -Understand that there are many things you don’t know. Visit successful coffeehouses. See what works and what doesn’t (and why). Know how to apply this to your customer base.

    -Please be creative and don’t use God’s name in vain. There are enough places called Holy Ground and enough clever knick-knacks with ten-cent variations of our Lord’s name and his words in existence.

    -As with all things, go with God’s leading. Always prepare the staff and operations of this business with prayer and meditation.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Other and Fire

August walked in the door. It felt like those old Clint Eastwood saloon scenes. The Italian restaurant was about half full, but half empty enough to make him feel the air he was walking through on his skin. The Other sat at a table against the far wall. A long way away. What gave it away was something unsaid. The Other looked at him, and he looked back, and, though it felt extremely present, the rest of the room disappeared as he walked to where his feet took him. To the table with the Other.

The Other was a she. She had always been so, but he seemed to realize it for the first time, along with her distance. She said some things. There was bad Muzak playing from a speaker near the waiter's station.

"How are you?" August asked the Other.

"I'm fine. I had a hard time finding a place to park, but I've got my rain jacket in case it starts up."

"Oh. Good."

He continued, "Did you order anything yet?"

"Just sweet tea."

A fire truck went by outside with sirens calling out Armageddon.

"You really like sweet tea?"

"Yeah. I've grown up with it," said the Other.

"My mom used to make great sweet tea. She made it with oranges and maraschino cherries and soaked it out in the sun. We had it every summer. I make it now. You should come over and have some tomorrow."

The Other faltered and he saw it. Another fire truck went by outside the window. Its sirens were loud in the restaurant. The table they were at was wide across.

"It's supposed to be a sunny day," he said.

The waiter came back and took orders. He was short and not very Italian. The Other got a salad. August got a salad and sweet tea.

"Did your mother make sweet tea?"

"No," she said, "I just found out a few months ago when I moved here. I like it now."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Beyond Reproach

What does it take to, as Paul says, "be above reproach" as a Christian (1 TIM 3:2)? Paul's word is specifically toward leaders in the church, but in the grassroots of the church, everyone has the potential to be a leader as God calls, and no one is exempt from the calculating eye of the Prowling Lion (1 PET 5:8)who seeks ever to accuse (JOB 1:7-2:4), even through those who unwittingly serve him (NEH 6:5-9).

This past week, Ted Haggard of Colorado Springs, CO, has been under scrutiny from the mad public eye over allegations that he had three years of business with a male prostitute who gave him both sex and drugs. I don't think I'll pretend to bring too much up on this one. I don't know, unfortunately, of Pastor Haggard's innocence or guilt. And, on that note, please don't try and decide on his innocence or guilt for yourself based on partial information. I am probably more partial than anyone else to judge quickly, so I say this mostly to myself, but right now, Haggard, his family, and his church need more prayer than anything. Meanwhile, Mark Driscoll provides us with a biblical look at being a Christian leader in a world full of sexual predacity. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (EPH 6:12)