Monday, December 31, 2007

Follow Me

So this post isn't as entertaining. I hope that doesn't deter you from reading. At times short posts are just easier and other times I like to put the work into developing something.

On my drive back from Ohio I was thinking about Jesus in Mark 2. He tells Levi to "follow me," and Levi gets up, leaves everything, and follows Jesus without any questions.

Jesus makes some tough demands. Like in Matthew he says, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt. 16:24-5)

That's a pretty steep order. To follow somebody and volitionally give up your posessions, security, and life! But I wouldn't want to follow anyone else who would demand less. I wouldn't want to follow someone who only wants a part of my life, a half hearted committment, a bit of my self, a sliver of my time.

It might sound bizzare, but that is the attracation of Jesus, he requires everything.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Best of 07

I hope you like Vin Diesel representing 2007! (If you have any questions let me assure you it is there for comic relief)

I've never done a "Best Of" list so I thought of things that people seem to be interested in. Off the top of my head came, movies, music, sports and some other random things. Some e things maybe didn't come out in 07 but I discovered them this year so for me they make the "Best Of" list!

Maybe I'll get more creative and think of other categories later on. Honestly I have a hard time thinking back to the beginning of 07, it has been a long year! :)

Best Movie in Theatre: Dan in Real Life

I just saw this in the theatre about a month ago. It was surprising, well written, clever, and clean. I saw a lot of movies (thanks to my roommate working at AMC and a Cinema class at Seminary) but this one stands out.

Best Movie I didn't See in a Theatre: Stranger than Fiction.

I love the idea behind this film. Will Ferrel does a good job acting and the script is just written really well.

Best Scholarly Book I read (For a class, I don't read this stuff on my own!): Christianity in a Pluralistic Society by Leslie Newbigin.
This book tackles how Christians live in a post-modern world where truth is relative and religion has no credibility. It is a hard read but well worth it for scholarly pursuits.

Best Ministry Book I read: Engaging The Soul of Youth Culture by Walt Mueller.
This book surprised me because it isn't just about teenagers. It is a cultural look at the Western world and specifically the influence of media on youth. Mueller also engages the role of the church in transforming the culture through shared life.

Best Sports Moment: (3 come to mind)
College Football: Boise State Upset 2007 Fiesta Bowl
This game is utterly ridiculous. Huge underdogs end up beating Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime. They go for 2 points instead of the tie and win. If you aren't familiar with this than use YouTube.
College Football: Appalachian State upsets Michigan
This game set the tone for the entire college football season. It was a crazy year where the parity of college football dominated and the need for a playoff system became obvious

MLB: Players use Steroids (Shocking, I never would have thought!) Surprise, surprise, MLB players used steroids! You mean Barry Bonds didn't go from a leadoff hitter to home run champ by hard work and discipline. I can't believe it! Next your going to tell me Michael Vick was involved in dog fighting and Pete Rose bet on baseball.

Best Band I discovered this year: Sleeping at Last and Anathallo
Sleeping at Last is local for me, Wheaton, Illinois. I had one of their cd's lying around and finally listened to it on my way up to camp this summer and was hooked.

Anthallo is also local, based in Chicago. I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan but I saw them live 3 times this year and by far they are the best live band I have ever seen.

Best Music Project: Denison Witmer Happy Birthday Denison
I'm a big DW fan. On his 30th birthday he put out 30 tracks for free on That is a generous and creative. Better yet all the proceeds, (gifts for his birthday) went to charity.

Best CD:
Sleeping at Last: Keep No Score.
Umbrellas: Illuminare.

Best Song:
Cool Hand Luke: The Balancing Act off of the CD The Balacing Act

Best Website:
This is a great site for listening to music where you make your own radio stations. Pandora polled people about their music tastes. So for instance if you like Denison Witmer you can make a radio station with Denison Witmer as the "root." It will then play other similar artist like Denison Witmer based on the massive amounts of people interviewed. The next artist to come up might be Sufjan Stevens. If you like the song/artist you can add Sufjan as another "root" for the radio station.

Best part is they play original and unique songs. I was listening to some Pedro the Lion and they were playing a track from a 2000 EP. It isn't like they only play the artist/band's well known songs, they play the entire gamut.

2nd Best Website:
Too cool. Want to know how far you ran just map it out.

Best Blog: Colossians 3:16
I started to read more blogs this year. This guy is a machine, pouring out a blog entry everyday almost. It is described as a "Collision of theology, culture and Music." Right up my alley

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

Christmas has new meaning for me this year. A main reason is my exposure to infants.

At the hospital I’ve encountered some real sorrow; the devastation and pain of losing a child before and after birth. I’ve also been blessed to share in the joy of a newborn.

This Christmas break I have spent around my two 8 week old nieces. I drove them down to visit my family and spent a lot of time with them. Simply put; they are beautiful. (Look at that photo!) I have a new appreciation for parents. My sister and her husband never stop. I rarely see them spending a second of solitude, leisure, or escape. Day after day, cry after cry, burp after burp, they love these girls. It also gives me new appreciation for my parents, who had to put up with my twin bro and me.

This is the joy of Christmas, a child enter time and space to redeem humanity. The man known as Jesus Christ, was God, and born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. In thinking about this I realize an error in my thinking (imagine that!) I tend to think of Jesus as a super-human. Sure, I reason, he’s human but with an unfair advantage. After all he was perfect because he was God. It’s not hard to be perfect if you are God. It’s not hard to submit to the Father’s will if you are God’s son. But you see, it was hard. Jesus was a human.

It wasn’t like Jesus was a pre-molded human that was plopped down into the world. He was a distinct human. He was original material. Imagine this; if Jesus was born today he would be different.

If Jesus was born to a single African American mother in Chicago he would be different.
If Jesus was born to a family in Nazi Germany in 1950 he would be different.
If Jesus was born during the apartheid in Africa he would be different.
If Jesus was born during the Spanish revolution he would be different.

Take the first example. His name maybe would not be Jesus. He would maybe be a she! He would not be a 1st century Middle Eastern man. He would not look like a Middle Eastern man but more like a 20th century African American. He would speak English, not Aramaic. Read left to right, not right to left. His ministry would involve the contemporary religious bodies, not the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots. There would be no tax collectors or fisherman. There would be no Roman government. Jesus would have different quirks. Different dreams. Different hopes. Different fears. Different friends. Different frustrations. Different family traditions. Different shoes. A different diet.

But none of these worldly differences would change him. He would still be the Son of God. Still be the perfect human. Still be the way through which the fallen humanity is restored. Still be the child who brings salvation to the earth. That is why I still follow and celebrate.

Thanks Jesus. Your first trip to earth was incredible. I’m looking forward to when you decide to make another visit. Come soon.

Merry Christmas all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Goodwill Blue Jeans

This picture is hilarious! Chuck Norris and denim; a killer combination. I would not want to get a roundhouse kick from somebody wearing those lethal jeans!

Clothes are funny. They identify people and I find it humorous how much time we spend with them. Shopping. Coordinating outfits. Critiquing each other's style choices. Somehow we justify a need for 20 t-shirts, 14 pairs of shoes, 5 winter jackets, etc. I wonder, is this really the best way to spend our money?

In high school my parents thought it was comical how I always shopped at Goodwill. Since I loathe shopping, second-hand shops bring in a tinge of fun. Regular shopping is just too easy; go into the store, find the size, try on the clothes, pay in any form.

Ah, but go to a thrift store and the game changes. You want a green sweater. First, hope they have sweaters, and green ones. Chances are it what you were looking for; unlikely. Chances are it fits; slim. And if you hit the jackpot there might be a dressing room! Depending on the tag it might be 1/2 off (I find that comical, half off clothes at second hand stores) Ready to buy it, well better have cash, a small bill, or a specific credit card. Man, all this talk makes me want to go leafing through moldy, attic, smelling clothes!!

To my point....I still shop primarily at Goodwill for clothes. Actually, I have bought one item of clothing not at a thrift store in the last three years. Beside socks and boxers that is where I go. Recently all my jeans have ripped or torn and I have had no luck finding any. I could easily find some at any department store. But I also realize I could easily go without for awhile. Yeah they aren't in the best condition but they'll do.

My logic is that I can drop 20 bucks for a pair of jeans, or maybe find three or four pairs for that much at Goodwill. Even though it isn't as convenient this is a way I try to practice good stewardship. Instead of buying outrageously marked up clothes I can just re-use what somebody else doesn't want anymore.

If it comes down to an easy $20 pair of jeans, or taking a month to buy a $4 pair, I'll gladly take the latter. Especially if I can use that $16 for other needs I might have in my life. Or better yet, I can use some of that leftover money and bless somebody. I'm convicted to try to do more blessings and less hording.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Give a Cow

I'm going to try to mix it up with this blog. A little from everyday life observations, what is going on in the world, thoughts from personal study, musings on popular culture. I have really felt a need to think more about stewardship, and in this holiday season, specifically about giving.

There are a lot of ways to spend money this season. After doing most of my Christmas shopping this year I added up how much money I spent. I don't have a lot of people to shop for, and my family doesn't ask for anything.

(Literally, they don't give me ideas, they ask for nothing, so my Mom is getting a power drill and my sister a supscription to Men's Health...i'm joking about the drill and magaine, not their obsolete requests.)

I was surprised at how much money I droped in just a few hours of shopping. I am not under the shcool of thought that Christians should absolutely not celebrate gift giving. Yes, we loose the reason for the season, but there is nothing wrong with exchanging gifts as a token of appreciation and love.

Yet, I believe we do need an alternative way of gift giving. We need a radical form of spending that aligns our priority with Jesus, not Sears and Roebucks. Think about this, according to American Research Group the average family is going to drop $859.00 this Christmas. (That is the average! Meaning a lot of poor families that spend under $100.00 are being averaged with the families who are dropping $1,500.00)

If we just took off $100.00 for each family we could do some amazing things. Here are three suggestions.

1) Feed My Starving Children. This is a great organization that provides food for malnourished children, look at these facts
$15 provides 100 meals
$30 provides 200 meals
$60 provides 400 meals
$100 provides 667 meals

2)Heifer International. What a cool idea. I was talking to a friend and their family does this every year. You can buy a cow, goat, chicken, pig, etc...that will continue to be a source of nourishment for a family. A cow cost $500, which is quite a bit, but you can give $50 as part of a team. Goats cost $100. Sheep $120.

What I love about this is that it is a gift that is so practical. A cow provides milk and as they write, "Better still, every gift multiplies, as the animal's first offspring is passed on to another family-then they also agree to pass on an animal, and so on."

The gift that keeps giving!

3) Probably my favorite practice during the holiday season is to just bless somebody. Take some money and give it away to somebody you know in need. I love what the Salvation Army does with the bell ringer. For me, there is a bit of a disconnect with dropping change in a bucket. But I love surprising somebody and seeing how that gift affects their life.

4) Money obviously isn't the only gift. Give time, patience, friendship, a cup of coffee, wisdom, a smile and love.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Empty Seats

I drive in my car by myself a lot. I’m guessing 90% of my driving around is in a car by myself. That is incredible inefficient. I imagine if we all carpooled or just relied on public transportation more than the world would be a much more healthy place.

One thing (of many) I miss about Scotland is the public transportation. For one thing it wasn’t that convient. Walking to a bus stop and waiting for the driver to fight through traffic was not ideal. But that is the point. We are so use to personal convenience and a customized lifestyle that we shriek at the idea of something like carpooling.

Owning a vehicle, or having a vehicle, means that we can come and go as we please. What public transportation/ carpooling does is make us accountablie to and reliable on other people. Unless I could bike or walk to my destination in Scotland I always relied on other people. Many times the buses didn’t go to my intended destination so I relied on other people's genorosity. When you come to rely on others you recognize how helpless and meager we are without others. It comes back to community.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I need an outlet

I am most unproductive, or should say, I don't grow as much, when I don’t have a ministry. I have had some kind of ministry during the past 1.5 years. I was a youth pastor for a bit and then did a summer stint as the Assistant Director at a Youth Camp. I find that when I am shepherding a flock and teaching people I am growing the most. Currently I am going to school full time and have a 15 hour week internship at a hospital.

As a chaplain about 1/2 of the work is “me” focused, as I learn about my gifts, passions, and traits to care for people. The program is a great balance between personal discovery and practical ministry. I can simply say that never before have I questioned the character, meaning, and purpose of God.

But the reason I re-started this blog is because I need a consistent outlet. (Hospital chaplaincy can be random and sporadic) I don’t expect that I will be exactly shepherding anyone during this time. But I need an outlet to get my ideas out and to get feedback. In my mind I am sharing about my life, my thoughts on God, and all for the purpose of edifying and encouraging others.

The way I am wired it is important for me to take my thoughts and meditations and articulate them. By putting them into written form it makes me conclude them. Most of the time I have these ideas but I just let them be. Or God lays something on my heart and I give it a cursory thought and immediately forget it. This blog is for me! When God impresses something on me this blog will give me a chance to explore that idea more and continually process it.

So if you like to read it, go ahead. If not, that’s fine. If I decided to do this on my own it would’t happen. By putting it on the Internet it causes me to be accountable. I suspect some people will read it and even if just one person stumbles across it once a day then it gives me a drive and pleasure!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Baseball, Idolatry, and a reluctant Prophet

So in my mind I made the connection between Roger Clemens and Old Testament literature. This is the progression of thought…

Yesterday the Mitchell Report came out, listing names of MLB players connected with the abuse of substances (HGH and Steroids). This just further makes me skeptical of professional athletes. Growing up I loved baseball. Soccer was always my favorite sport but baseball was right next to it. Each summer I looked forward to going to Pittsburgh to root for the hapless Pirates. Even though they haven’t had a winning season in 15 years, yeah 15 years, I’m still devoted.

But the cheating has started to ruin the beloved pastime. What is even more disappointing is the failure/inability to enforce any punishments because the player union. Enough said about that.

How does this connect with Jeremiah? While reading Jeremiah 10, I was pondering what are the idols in my life, and in our specific Western culture?

It is a common assertion that movies stars, celebrities, and athletes have achieved a form of idolatry in America. Professional sports have become the opiate of the people, and chief among these worshiped individuals are baseball players. I am too aware that professional sports have merged from game to entertainment. From the love of sport to the love of money. Sports are the sacred and elevated to an unhealthy point.

Idols serve a purpose, albeit a frivolous one. But they do serve a purpose for the time being. Jeremiah uses the analogy of a scarecrow (10:5). A scarecrow serves a purpose, it has a utilitarian nature. Sports serve a purpose, they have a utilitarian nature. But that isn’t what makes them idols….

Jeremiah 10:11 reads, “These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

Using Jeremiah’s train of thought, an idol is temporary and ungodly. Idols are fleeting and have no eternal nature. They hold some power but in comparison to God, their utility is meager. So God is to be worshiped because God is all-powerful and eternal. But what also marks an idol is the way it pales in comparison to the standard of God. It is a character issue.

Part of God’s omnipotence and righteousness is God’s character. God is righteous, just, pure, holy, good. Idols are not. They fail to hold any power to redeem humanity. We worship God because the entirety of God’s character. Yes, God has more power than all idols, but that power is just another beautiful element of God’s wholeness.

Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, Lenny Dykstra, Miguel Tejada, all the other MLB players…what is their character? When we look at what we elevate in our life we must ask about the character, the integrity, the fidelity, of our time, worship, and attention.

The only thing worth all that is God.

Roger Clemens and Jeremiah

So the Mitchell Report came out today, revealing MLB players who are linked to using steriods and HGH (Human Growth Hormone). So this got me thinking about the prophets in the Bible. More to come tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New time to write

Working at the hospital has made for some great experiences. Every week I get to lead meditations in the psychiatric unit. 4 different meditations with 4 groups that each have a different psychological problems. The outpatient unit is quite independent but the ITU section is quite intense and extreme.

The one thing I love about working in the hospital is that patients there are willing to be cared for. I would rather lead a meditation in the psychiatric unit, or talk about suffering with a cancer patient, than discuss these issues in most churches. Why? Simply because these people know they are in need.

In the psych ward they know they have problems. In the rest of the hospital the patients obviously know they are in need...that's why they are in the hospital! And that is very refreshing because they are ripe for conversation and dialogue.

In the church, on a Sunday morning, in suburban Chicago, how many people there actually know they are in need? If you have a six figure salary, a cookie-cutter house, picture-perfect family, your basic physical needs met, than how do you come to the realization that you are in need?

A lot of people in the world, in the church, just don't know they are in need. The broken people in the hospital are so aware of their needs and so willing to receive care. That's why I like working at the hospital. There is a need. And it is great to get to do ministry where people know how much they are in the need of God.

More to come hopefully...

Friday, May 25, 2007