Friday, March 30, 2007

Christianity and Islam

Here's a well thought, instructive look at the differences and similarities between Christianity and Islam from Glenn McDonald - the pastor I knew growing up and who still serves at Zionsville Presbyterian Church:

Christianity and Islam


She's Lovely, Ain't She

For all of you who grow weary of my infrequent and not so subtle musings, take heart! My wife also contributes to this blog from time to time - sometimes without ever even writing a blog. In fact, I want you to notice that she has created two additional links lately.

1. Grist: a web-site for all you hip, inspired or aspiring environ-concious types.
2. Support Savannah Artists: a great looking site where you can buy directly from art students at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) - where Anna's brother, Drew graduated from.



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I like This

Some really great photos from a woman out in California:

Click here to see.


Monday, March 19, 2007


“God deflects our attempts at control by withdrawing into silence, knowing that nothing gets to us like the failure of our speech. When we run out of words, then and perhaps only then can God be God. When we have eaten our own words until we are sick of them, when nothing we can tell ourselves makes a dent in our hunger, when we are prepared to surrender the very Word that brought us into being in hopes of hearing it spoken again – then, at last, we are ready to worship God.” – Barbara Brown Taylor, When God Is Silent

We watched Jesus Camp last night – a documentary about the state of fundamentalist Christianity in America. It was disturbing. It showed again and again how much liberty certain persons and organizations are taking in speaking for God – a commission that American religion has always understood to be part and parcel of the Christian faith. But to suggest only American Christians abuse the right of speech would be wrong. In fact, it seems much more of an overall cultural problem. The vast majority of words from every media angle, the splattering of text on billboards, the constant access to news: we are saturated with messages as though we are experiencing the mind numbing indoctrination of They Live (okay, no one is really going to get that reference).

Elsewhere in her great study, Barbara Brown Taylor acknowledges the work of George Steiner (a literary critic) who speaks about the “broken covenant between the word and the world.” Steiner states that western civilization has long placed a significant emphasis on the relationship between word (logos) and world (cosmos). This relationship was clearly critical to early Christian thought. However, for a number of reasons, “word and world” has been greatly severed. Words – more and more – do not connote truth or reality. Some do. But, most have become conscripted and drafted for advertising or manipulative reasons. Words are now most valuable for the impression or image they create.

Given the profuse and profane use of words, Barbara Brown Taylor makes the astute point that God’s best defense in such a world may just be to retreat into silence for a time – to give humanity time to realize the famine that surrounds them. Thus, an irony is born: at a point in history when people all over the world seem just as willing as ever to talk about (and for) God (despite all the taboo, secular embarrassments to do just the opposite), there is an ever growing absence or silence from God.

God’s silence or absence is not a realm anyone really wants to address or think too much about. Frankly, it’s frightening. And for me, it is doubly so, for I accepted a call to speak and proclaim the “Word of the Lord.” Without a word from the Lord, I am out at sea without a paddle to get home. But, then again, so is everyone else. If there really is only silence behind all that has ever been than our souls seem to take a collective hit to the stomach.

Still, despite the harsh, cold reality of silence, it cannot be avoided – especially when speaking of God and faith.

The silence of God, which seems so unattractive or heretical to fundamentalist Christian ears, is nonetheless a pivotal piece of Scripture. In commenting on another scholar named Richard Elliot Friedman and his work The Disappearance of God, she writes: “Working his way from Genesis to the minor prophets, he paints a portrait of God that fades as he goes. Divine features that were distinct at the beginning of the story grow blurry as God withdraws, stepping back from human beings so that they have room to step forward.”

And, as a Hebrew scholar, Friedman is also aware of the distinctive between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Old Testament. While both the Hebrew and Christian tradition consist of the same texts, the ordering is different – such that in the Hebrew tradition, the progression flows from “action to speech to silence” (here, I am quoting from Jack Miles’ God: A Biography). And, as Miles also points out, the “silence” consists the book of Esther, which is unique in that it no where even mentions God.

Christian tradition – as alluded to above – alters this a bit – choosing to place the “ten books of silence” in the middle of the Old Testament and closing with the prophets who speak for God (Miles). Although, a critical or sober examination of the New Testament and of Christian history also suggests a similar theme of action to speech to silence. First is the action of the “Word made flesh” through the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After that, come the works and words of the apostles – those sent to carry the good news to the nations. And while not dramatic or prolonged, the early church did have to wrestle with why God had not yet returned or given another word (as in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church).

Furthermore, the very last revelation given to John is ripe with poignancy and irony. In conclusion, the Lord says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” To which the one receiving the revelation gladly affirms, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” The door is opened for hopeful expectation that God will soon return, act and – through the Word – create a new heaven and a new earth. This is precisely where the period of silence seems to break in again.

Yet, how long is “quickly?” Two-thousand plus years sure seems like a long time to me and most, but, then again, that may just be a drop in the ocean to God. In any case, the last words of Scripture convey an immediacy of action about to break upon the world, and, yet, the Church has labored through two millennia.

This is not an easy, clear-cut issue. Many assert God continues to speak and has spoken through the long course of the Church – through various miracles and through the persistent, yet hopeful display of the Gospel in the world through sermon, sacrament and community.

Other Christians have been even more blunt – confidently declaring that various natural acts of destruction or political events were the voice, action or judgment of the Lord. Or, in the more personal realm, many persons have claimed experiences of divine revelation and speech – anointing them for various purposes, comforting them during a crisis, or just appearing like a ghost in some common elements of nature – a tortilla, a sunset, etc.

But could it be that God is purposefully creating space for silence? Silence is not intrinsically a bad thing. Silence often raises our awareness. It cultivates readiness. Indeed, it may be these very things that make silence so attractive to God. God may just delight in crafting times for us to respond to God’s silence by lifting up our own voices. As giver of life, God’s most courageous, vulnerable gift might just be waiting in the background, letting His children take turns trying to order and create.

If so, that is incredibly risky – as proved by the many, destructive ways humanity has taken great liberty to speak up for God and thereby spoken against God’s original message.

In any case, I have been thinking about what God might say when God does show up again. Here’s my best guess so far:

As God condescends to God’s creation, to speak a final word, God’s hand extends towards the earth. And on God’s hand, the index finger extends – taking the position of blame and accusation, aimed at the whole of humanity. And as men and women, babes and elders take cover to hear the mighty force of God’s voice yet again, the same hand of God now retreats towards God’s face. And that index finger poised to blame now falls gently over God’s lips.

“Shhh,” is the first word. Silence. Again. At last. God has something to say.


Saturday, March 17, 2007


Do you think this person went to art school?

John Locke: a portrait


Day 3

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Too bad St. Patty's Day didn't fall on a Friday for Notre Dame.

Too bad for me too! After missing only two games in the Thursday bunch, I doubled my losses yesterday ... bringing me to a solid 26 out of 32.

Thankfully, I still have all of my sweet 16 teams in it. Although, Texas A & M did not play well, and I'm nervous about their match-up with Louisville. Kentucky teams are playing well this tournament (including Eastern Kentucky which gave UNC about all they wanted).

After two days of basketball, here are three things I would change if I could:

1. Kansas would be my national champion. I don't know if they have the PG to get it done, but their first win was impressive. Their fast, lengthy and just as talented as Florida ... but I think they'll be hungrier than Florida.
2. I'd pick VCU over Pitt as well. Maynor is money.
3. I'd put more confidence in the Big 10. I feel like a heretic now. Every year that people think the Big 10 is going to stink up the joint, they clamp down on defense and send other teams packing. Between IU, Purdue, and Michigan St., I lost three potential points. And, I really do think that IU has a decent shot against UCLA tonight. (see how quickly I shift from pessimist to blind optimism).

By the way, simply picking the top seed in every game so far would have netted me a total of 27 out of 32 correct picks. Just goes to show no tournament is the same! And there weren't any 12 over 5 upsets this year!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Official, Final, Indisputable, but Definitely Fallible Bracket

Gettin' Lucky In Kentucky: 2007 Bracket Predictions


On second thought ... well, ... maybe, ... let's see ...

I changed my mind. Gotta go with the Big 10 at least a little bit. Wisconsin wins a close one against UNLV to avoid the second round upset. Not so lucky in the Sweet 16, though! Oregon runs past them!


Oh the Madness!

It is here. Again. March Madness. My favorite sports entertainment experience. The whole thing is great really ... the Cinderalla stories, the David vs. Goliath match-ups, the buzzer-beaters, the rising superstars, the history, the legendary schools and classic match-ups, the mini dramas and torn emotions. And to think it all culminates in "One Shining Moment." I love it.

But, truly, the greatest part of March Madness is today and tomorrow. 64 teams, 32 games, two straight days of constant CBS coverage and the reality that any team can find themselves with tears mixed with sweat, picking up towels and packing up the bus to go home. Well, probably not the 1 seeds ... but ... but, you just never know!

This year seems like an especially exciting tournament since there is a ton of talented freshman and younger teams. There's the drama that Florida has a legitimate chance to repeat as champs. All the top schools are in the mix: UNC, Kansas, UCLA, Georgetown. Well, strike that, there are a few schools in uncharacteristically low positions ... once again. Kentucky and IU are the most obvious. But, there's also Arizona at an 8 seed, Illinois a #12, Duke a 6.

And as a Hoosier fan, the odds are not looking good for "my team." They not only have to travel out west for the opening round, they have to play a tough Gonzaga team (which knocked them out of the tournament last year), and if by chance they get past Gonzaga, then UCLA will be waiting. Let's just say I'm not expecting much.

Anyhow, here are my ten top thoughts about the rest of the tournament:

1. Georgetown and Texas A & M seem to be the fair-weather favorites to make the Final Four
2. Oregon could waddle their way all the way to the Elite 8 or crumble on day 1. I have them going tot the Elite 8, which means they will lose earlier.
3. Memphis is the hands down weakest #2 seed and will be the first #2 to go out in most people's brackets. Unless you're a Memphis fan, which also means you might be crazy enough to pick them for the Final Four.
4. Best potential games: UNC vs. Texas, Kansas vs. UCLA, Ohio State vs. Georgetown (or Ohio State vs. UNC ... again), and Ohio State vs. Florida - especially since the Gators trounced the Buckeyes in football for the national championship AND the Gators devoured the Buckeyes down in Gator country earlier this year in basketball. But, the game people really want to see: Ohio State vs. Texas! Durant vs. Oden. Connelly vs. that other freshman that's really good. Oh, yeah.
5. The games I really have no idea about: Xavier vs. BYU, Washington St. vs. Oral Roberts.
6. My biggest upsets: Arkansas over USC and VCU over Duke. (Also, I have Wisconsin going out in the second round to UNLV and Memphis going down to Nevada in the second round).
7. Durant will post a 30-15 game, but will also crumble against the frontcourt of UNC. He can't dominate this whole tournament.
8. Durant is a much better baller than Oden at this point.
9. Freshman guards will win and lose a lot of these games.
10. Acie Law IV will hit a game winner against Ohio St. and Florida will repeat!

And, the best part, I'm probably entirely wrong about 75% of my entire bracket, I will be so lost in Arkansas pulling off a win and the madness of Oral Roberts that I really won't care that Oregon just got bounced! Texas A & M, on the other hand, is another matter.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Beautiful Day

at home ... with the family ... in the backyard ...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Core Meltdown

When I came home today, Wyatt - instead of greeting me with his usual smile - was sitting in the middle of the kitchen crying his head off. But from the first moment I saw him, I could tell he wasn't really in pain. This was a tantrum; his first one according to Anna.

Generally, this wasn't a good day for Wyatt, but the final meltdown occurred because he could not gain entry into the fridge. So, he melted and started wailing, which eventually made big alligator drops fall from his eyes and turned his whole face blotchy as though he were breaking out in hives ... that comes from Anna by the way.


The last two days I have had the opportunity to visit a crisis home and a detention center in Owensboro. That's part of the thrill of being in ministry: continual exposure to new environments.


We're eating split pea soup with jowl bacon tonight for dinner. Suuuuuu-weeee! But, the good news about this jowl bacon: it is grown locally. We also had some buffalo recently from the locals of Kentucky. Yes, apparently, buffalo roam, graze and eventually find themselves at the butcher in these parts.


Wyatt has also learned to quickly reduce any room into a disaster area by liberally emptying boxes, shelves, laundry baskets and drawers of all sundry items. Thus, the necessity of keeping him out of the fridge, which led to "core meltdown."


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Fall of Flying

It’s official. Flying has lost its luster. The whole airline industry has officially passed through the first, splendid age of novelty and wonder – one further example that all great things, be it an empire or a school or hospital or church, eventually succumb to mediocrity.

Likewise, flying is now nothing more than a system – ripe with inefficiency. Sure, for a small percentage of the population who can travel first class, pine away hours in the airport in the “Admiral’s Lounge”, or be assured a place on any flight because they have more points accumulated than Matt Cecil on Tetris, flying might still be enjoyable. But, if you ask these frequent flyers, even they would tell you flying has gone the way of the Greyhound bus – an “event” that has become a nightmare waiting to happen.

These days, everyone just wishes they were important to enough to fly in a private jet like Nancy Pelosi or Prince. Anything else is rather mundane, or, worse, aggravating.

By the birth of the 21st Century flying was already fighting an uphill battle to maintain its pristine and privileged image. We were, after all, entering into the age of the Jetson’s, which made each one of us aware – if only subconsciously – that we are entitled to the ease of personal travel a car affords with the speed flying does.

Such idealistic visions were certain to crumble, but it seems several factors (international business, the ever-increasing cost of fuel and subsequent increase in ticket prices) have accelerated the demise. Two things in particular strike me as ominous factors. One: so many people fly these days (immigrants, businessmen, grandmothers, consultants) that flying is glutted with crowds, lines and headaches. Traveling from coast to coast is like joining a great stream of salmon, except there is no spawning … but, then again, there is a decent chance you may die as a result. That – the dying part – is factor number two. Ever since September 11, 2001, there is the ever-present reality (read: crisis) that flying is a dangerous activity. Sure, the chances are slim that your plane will be hijacked (let alone malfunction), but you can’t help but hear the public address boom in a color and a warning about the risk level of attack. Yes, in fact, flying is now nothing more than a means of mass, public transportation.

Every time I finish a journey now, I feel more like a salmon than an eagle … especially when you’re sitting at the terminal after a four hour flight, waiting for the door to open, crammed in against a fellow passenger who has unloaded their life upon you or ignored your very existence, being bumped and hit with luggage, waiting to move, eyeing the people who fumble with their bags, trying to remain polite, but also keenly aware that if people don’t start to move soon, you may, nay, you will climb over every seat and person necessary to get out of this flying sardine can.

Don’t take it too harshly, airline execs. If it could happen to Rome, it could happen to you.