Friday, November 30, 2007

Marching to the Burger King Headquarters with the C.I.W.

Here is some poor quality video that I shot at the March to Burger King with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. It was fun. They were jamming some good music, a lot of drums, horns, steel drums. I even heard Cypress Hill pumping out the speakers. I'd guess that there were at least a thousand people. I'm not really sure.

Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, wrote a really good article in the New York Times yesterday about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their fight against Burger King. Here is an excellent quote from that article: "As for human rights abuses, Burger King has suggested that if the poor farm workers of southern Florida need more money, they should apply for jobs at its restaurants."

Why We March

Today, farmworkers from Immokalee, Florida and their religious, labor, and student allies are marching 9 miles through the streets of Miami to the world headquarters of Burger King.
There is a human rights crisis in the fields of Florida. Tomato pickers who harvest tomatoes for the fast-food industry face sweatshop conditions every day, including sub-poverty, stagnant wages (pickers earn about $10,000/year on average and a per-bucket piece rate that has not changed significantly since 1978) and the denial of basic labor rights.
We have seen five slavery operations in the fields brought to the federal courts since 1997, helping to liberate over 1,000 workers and sending 10 employers to prison.
Burger King contributes directly to farmworkers’ poverty through its high-volume purchasing practices, for decades demanding the cheapest tomatoes possible but never demanding fair treatment or just wages for the people who harvest those tomatoes.
In the past years farmworkers and consumers have united to bring Taco Bell and McDonald's to the table to help improve tomato pickers' wages and working conditions.

Here is an article from this week's Palm Beach Post explaining how Burger King has, this month, undermined the deal that was struck with Taco Bell and McDonalds, destroying any progress that had been made for the migrant workers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sun-Sentinel Story and Response

It was fun to have the South Florida Sun-Sentinel write a half-page story about my church field trip reviews in this past Sunday's edition. Part 1 of the Story/ Part 2 of the Story. It will give me something to clip out and send to my grandmother in Michigan.

It has been interesting to see the difference between those churches that instantly knew that they had been written about on the internet (tech-savvy churches) and those churches that didn't have a clue until my reviews showed up in the Sunday paper (the old-fashioned way).

More importantly, the article evoked a response from a friend of mine that I would like to share with you. I have been friends with Victor for about a year or so, and he runs a site called My Living Mind. Here is what he had to say this week:

Lew has created an interesting blog topic by reviewing churches.
The interesting part is that he is not your typical southern christian with a
conservative attitude. He's a metal head, a beer connoisseur, and is
one of the most open and honest people I know. I actually had no interest in
religion in the past few years but have recently in the last few months
considered a new outlook on religion because of Lew's blog.

If I die anytime soon, you can go ahead and put this quote on my tombstone. It means that much to me. Some of you may scoff at my endearment for this quote, but a small few of you may actually understand.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Giving:How Each of Us Can Change the World

I wouldn't normally bother to read a book by a president, but President Bill Clinton's book Giving, caught my eye on the bookshelf. I liked the title. I was well pleased with this book. It doesn't serve as motivation or inspiration so much as it serves as an excellent resource for giving. Here is the way President Clinton breaks it down (I've included a small handful of the websites that he endorses as well):

Giving Money

Giving Time

Giving Things

Giving Skills

For each area, he tells an inspirational story of someone who stepped out of their comfort zone and took risks in order to help their fellow man. He also goes into great detail listing and describing those organizations that are trustworthy and successful in each area. Even if you did not care to read this book, you could still use his website for the resources on giving.

His conclusion towards the end of the book:

"Why don't people give? I think the reasons are simple.
  • They don't believe what they could do would make a difference, either because their resources are limited or they're convinced efforts to change other people's lives and conditions are futile.
  • They don't feel morally obligated to give.

  • No one has ever asked them to give.
  • They believe that they'll enjoy life more if they keep their money and time for themselves and their families."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy? - A Morgan Spurlock Film

Morgan Spurlock is the filmmaker who brought us Super-Size Me, an excellent movie. If you haven't seen Super-Size Me, you need to stop what you are doing right now and go watch that movie. And while your at it, you might as well watch Fast Food Nation too.

Spurlock's new film, What Would Jesus Buy comes out this week, just in time for the Christmas Holiday Shopping Season. In the film, Spurlock follows a preacher/comic, Reverend Billy, who preaches against the consumerism and materialism that has run rampant in our culture. On a side note, I noticed that some retailers were opening as early as 4 am on Black Friday this year. Is there a point at which the corporations will push too far and force the population to realize that they are being corrupted and bankrupted?

My wife and I have decided that 2007 is the year that we will begin to put the brakes on the "Christmas Consumer/Materialist Shopping Season." We've decided that we really enjoy opening presents, so we plan to continue to wrap empty boxes and put them under the tree because they look pretty and we'll still have presents, albeit empty ones, to open on Christmas morning.
This isn't a classic case of uptight Christians boycotting certain companies because they don't hold to their personal values. This is a case of people being fed up with what they are being fed: in this case - rampant consumerism and materialism that peaks each year during Christmas.
What are your thoughts on:
  • the Christmas Shopping Season
  • incurring a massive amount of debt each December
  • stores opening at 4 am for Black Friday
  • counter-cultural alternatives to this consumeristic dilemma
  • getting stuff for ourselves in the guise of "buying gifts for each other"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

March on Burger King - Coalition of Immokalee Workers

On Friday, November 30 the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is sponsoring a 9 mile march, a rally, a conference, and a concert to fight against Burger King for humane treatment of Florida agricultural workers. Immokalee is a migrant town about 80 miles west of Ft. Lauderdale.

Central Florida is full of these migrant towns that look much worse than many inner cities. As a part of my vocation, I visit each of these towns once each month. Last year, I rescued a starving, almost dead puppy from Immokalee and brought it back to Animal Aid to be nursed back to health.

The CIW has been successful in recent years at getting Taco Bell and McDonalds to concede to their requests for humane treatment of agricultural workers. Now they are taking the fight to Burger King at the Burger King Headquarters in Miami.

Visit the CIW site for more information on the March on BK, as well as more information regarding the plight of Florida's migrant workers. At the last CIW concert/rally in May, Rage Against the Machine showed up and jammed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Journey Church

Church Field Trip #20

Journey Church meets at Lake Worth Christian School (in the gymnasium) every Sunday at 10:10 AM. They have established an interesting partnership with the school involving outfitting the gymnasium with audio/visual equipment. We arrived about 5-10 minutes late, but according to Jerry - the Small Group Pastor, they usually start about 5-10 minutes late anyways. Upon entering, we received two standard greetings and we were funneled to a table where everyone who enters gets a name tag. I like that they make everyone take a name tag, rather than just visitors, but I also have a problem with name tags. They make you lazy. When everyone is wearing a name tag, you are neither prompted to introduce yourself nor ask someone their name. Name tags are self-defeating in purpose.

The worship set only lasted about 15 minutes and it was pretty mellow. There were about 400 people packed into the gymnasium which was dimly lit. The gym floor was covered with a dark protective covering, there was a 12 foot black curtain running behind the entire front of the setup, and the stage itself was lightly illuminated in a "black light" (you know, the purple kind.) I liked the atmosphere. I liked the darkness, and I thought that the black light was an interesting touch. For my own personal tastes, I wish that some of the music had been a little more uptempo and I wish that the worship had lasted longer.

After the worship set, Pastor Scott Baugh introduced us to a missionary to Haiti. The missionary spoke for about 5 minutes about their work and then showed us a short video about their mission trip to Haiti. Scott talked about how Journey Church was going to begin getting involved in microfinance in Haiti, as well as building churches and schools there. He also showed a slide show of church members renovating a youth center next to the school in Lake Worth.

Pastor Scott gave a traditional Thanksgiving "Be Thankful" message. He taught on Deuteronomy 6:10-12, 8:10-18, and 26:1 - Three instances of God warning the people of Israel to be careful not to forget where they came from and what God had done for them.

Here are some excerpts from the sermon:

"What is the source of your wealth? Is it God? Or is it your own hard work?"

"When you are successful, you tend to forget about your dependence on God."

"There is no such thing as a self-made man."

"Haiti is only 2.5 hours away from us, but it is a completely different world from the one we live in."

"This isn't about feeling guilty for being blessed, it is about feeling grateful for being blessed."

He gave us a piece of blank paper so that we could write down what we are grateful for. He then told us that, in the past week, his father has had two strokes and his wife has miscarried their first child. Pastor Scott broke down into tears as he told us about his difficult week. It was difficult to watch. He then used this as an illustration of how, even in the worst of times, there are things that we can still be thankful for.

The Gospel was a complete no show. He didn't allude to it, reference it, or give any other such show of having anything whatsoever to say to those in the congregation who might be lost spiritually.

After the service, Jerry engaged us in conversation for about 10 minutes. He was definitely interested in whether or not "we liked the service" and if "we were coming back." Jerry told us that the church is now 4 years old. They gave us a guest bag that contained some left-over Halloween candy, a pen, a statement of faith, and a sermon CD on Parables.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne

When I read Radical Reformission: How to reach out without selling out by Mark Driscoll last year, it really jacked me up. Since I had become a Christian, I had been taught that I needed to squeeze into a certain mold in order to be found acceptable. Driscoll taught me that I could keep my unique personality intact while following Jesus. He also convicted me of loving Jesus but not loving people, especially people who do not know Jesus. That book messed me up so bad that I had to re-read it at least 3 times in order to fully understand how my life would change as a result of "reaching out without selling out."

Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical holds the potential to do almost as much damage to my life for the cause of Jesus. For more information about Shane, go to the Simple Way, the semi-homeless community in which he lives. I am going to simply say, "Read this book." And I am going to list some notable excerpts here:

"Some of us haven't even asked the right questions, or found a church that would let us."

"I had become a believer, but I had no idea what it meant to be a follower. People had taught me what Christians believe, but no one had told me how Christians live."

"We decided to stop complaining about the church we saw, and we set our hearts on becoming the church we dreamed of."

Quoting Soren Kierkegaard, 'The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. 'My God', you will say, 'if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world'?'"

Quoting the late Rich Mullins, "You guys are into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too. But I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest."

"That doesn't mean rich people are excluded or not welcome. It means that it is nearly impossible for them to catch the vision of interdependent community, dependent on God and one another. Rich folks, while they may be starving for God and community, still believe the illusion that they are self-sufficient autonomous individuals, and that belief is incompatible with the gospel."

"I'm not sure we need more churches. What we really need is 'a church'. I have tried to remove the plural form 'churches' from my vocabulary, training myself to think of the church as Christ did, and as the early Christians did."

On his experience in Iraq, "I was shocked to find so many Christians in Iraq. I was floored by my ignorance and by the ancient roots of my faith. This was the land of my ancestors. Christianity was not invented in about that?"

"Sometimes people ask me if I am scared, living in the inner city. I usually reply, 'I'm more scared of the suburbs.' While the ghettos may have their share of violence and crime, the suburbs are the home of the more subtle demonic forces - numbness, complacency, comfort - and it is these that can eat away at our souls."

"The higher a person's frequency of church attendance, the more likely they are to be sexist, racist, anti-gay, pro-military, and committed to their local church."

"The pervasive myth is that as a church grows larger, it can do more good. As congregations grow in terms of staff and property, their giving to causes outside of operating expenses decreases dramatically, especially money given directly to the poor. Rich people are significantly less generous than poor people proportionately, and large congregations give proportionately far less to people in poverty than do small ones. In fact, they rarely even have poor people among them."

Claiborne concludes the book with a four-page list of organizations (also available on the Simple Way website) that are looking to revolutionize the church through social action.

Florida Baptists - "Jesus is a recreational drug user"

This week, the Florida Baptist Convention approved a bylaw amendment agreeing to "abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and using any other recreational drugs." (I wonder how many of those old geezers get by on a daily cocktail of caffeine and pharmaceutical drugs.)

This is just another account of Baptists further distancing themselves from Jesus by holding to tradition. The executive director of the FBC said that he was embarrassed that any discussion was even necessary when clarifying the issue of alcohol use.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Church - The Time Consumption Monster?

This quote comes from the Mustard Seed (a faith-based un-church community in Northern Palm Beach County). It is a response to No Good Reason To Go To Church.

"Attractional models of church and need-based programs simply do not leave time for people to actually be in their communities. There is just too much effort required to pull these things off, and the monster must be continually fed by more money, more volunteers, more staff, and more time."

I guess the question would be: if you spend all of your time in the church, what's left for the neighbors? How do you balance between the two? Does your church encourage or inhibit your involvement in the very community in which you live?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Epic Remix Church

Church Field Trip #19

Our first emergent church! And possibly the only one we'll find in South Florida. Epic Remix was planted a mere 3 weeks ago. The founding pastor, Kelly Lyons, was a pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale for the past 13 years. They meet at the North Broward Prep School at 6:30 pm on Sunday nights. (They meet on Sunday nights out of necessity, not preference.) Kelly was raised by missionary parents in Peru, but has lived in the States for the past 17 years. Kelly draws no salary from the church and has no plans to draw a salary. Epic Remix intends to give away 75% of its income, using only 25% for in-house costs.

It would not be appropriate to state whether or not we were "greeted." Rather, we had at least 5 different people engage us in genuine conversation before the service began. Two of these people were Kelly - he doesn't like to be called "Pastor Kelly"; and Chelsea - she runs the Homeless Outreach program called Love Bags. They don't just throw stuff at the homeless, but they actually get to know them as friends. They are even housing a couple of them in their own homes. The service began about 7 minutes late, but we didn't mind because we were enjoying the conversation.

Epic Remix openly models themselves after Mars Hill Bible Church/Rob Bell and Mosaic Church/Erwin Mcmanus (both prominent "emerging churches") - though I found it curious that Kelly didn't know that there was a Mosaic in Miami. The set up was a half-circle of chairs with Kelly seated on a stool in the middle. They began the service with a New Testament reading - a woman got up and read Col. 1:19-23.

The worship time was leaderless. In other words, it was us facing the screen. Despite the fact that they supposedly have a handful of worship leaders in the congregation, Kelly wanted to experiment and try video-led worship. It was a little weird; a little uncomfortable. But it was also kind of cool. I've never been so aware of the people around me. Unfortunately, our posse of 7 (4 adults, 2 youths) seemed to be among the few in the group of 60 people that were actually excited about worshipping. It was a catch-22. The videos that they played, Hillsong, were high-energy and really enjoyable. But most of the crowd around us, including Kelly standing at the front, seemed as if they were disinterested in worshipping.

Following worship, Kelly taught on I Kings 9-11 for about 20 minutes. The title of the teaching was "Everything is Not O.K."This passage showed that Solomon was beyond wealthy, rich in wisdom, and certainly blessed by God. Despite his outward appearances of rich blessing, Solomon was actually headed down the wrong path away from God because of the influence of his many wives. Kelly correlated the experience of Solomon to our experience in modern day America. We are rich beyond our wildest dreams (compared to the rest of the world), but morally and spiritually, things are a mess. He then showed us a video by Chris Seay, called "The 8 Dollar Hot Dog." After watching the video, Kelly led us in a 20 minute session of Question and Dialogue.

Here are some excerpts from the teaching and Q&A time:

"justice and righteousness are one and the same"

"Do we live in a Kingdom of comfort? Are we oppressing others without meaning to? What if our wealth was shared in such a way that it changed the world?"

We discussed: child labor, migrant workers, undocumented workers, organ trade, where our clothing comes from, etc.

"How can we listen for the cry of others? We need to get out of our house and meet people and get to know them."

"What makes God angry today? The self-serving complacent church. The church is not an institution. We are the church."

"What am I doing with what God has given me? We need to educate ourselves about what's really going on around us. We should pray for the people who make our clothing, because they are most likely oppressed."

"Fair Trade is not the same as Free Trade."

At the end of the service, Kelly invited us to participate in the Ten-Minute Party (which was actually almost a half hour of conversation). I have to say that some of the people in the group drilled him much harder than I would have, but here are some of the statements that he made in trying to describe the vision of Epic Remix.

Are you emergent?
"We refuse every label anyone wants to give us."
(Trust me, they are emergent. As a matter of fact, that would be the classic emergent answer to the question.)

"What if church is not about us? What if church was about it's non-members? What would an upside down church look like? What if the church didn't need massive amounts of money in order to operate? Where might that money go? What could it be used for?"

"What if the people of my generation (Kelly is almost 50) let the younger generation lead? Where would they take us?"

"The Grand Story of Scripture is not about us, it is about God."

"Epic Remix wants to be a safe place for you to ask questions, even questions you're not supposed to ask."

Do you preach a watered-down Gospel? Do you replace the Gospel of sacrifice and redemption with the Social Gospel of feeding and clothing the poor and oppressed?
"Of course we preach Jesus. Of course we preach a Gospel of repentance."
(Except, like many of the churches we've been to, he didn't. I guess, at least in Kelly's case, it is somewhat purposeful. The emergent thought is that a person will be saved through the experience of going on the journey with other followers of Christ, not by being told about their sin and the sacrifice that was made on their behalf by Jesus. It is in this respect, among others, that I disagree with the popular emergent theology. While it was great hearing so many ideas that we've never heard in church before; it is unfortunate that they willingly choose to leave out the most important message of all - the Gospel.)

"I'd love to keep Epic Remix as organic as possible."

"I think that liturgy and scripture readings can be a powerful aspect of worship."

Phew! After that experience, we decided that it would be appropriate to go to the ultra-hip Starbucks (I've never been there because I don't drink coffee) to discuss our emergent experience. As an added bonus, we had taken a 20 year old de-churched college student along with us to Epic, so we had the benefit of her perspective as well. Like many college students, she hasn't been involved in the church since she was in high school.

Yes, I've heard the hype about the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. And yes, it was, quite possibly, one of the greatest liquids that I have ever put into my mouth. And I'm saying that as a non-coffee drinker.

Follow-up: Kelly invited anyone who didn't have family in South Florida over to his house for Thanksgiving Dinner. This is a show of personal hospitality that I appreciate.

Follow-up: Kelly sent us a personal email thanking us for our visit as well as the feedback. He also invited us to come over to his house for dinner this week. Yet another show of the hospitality that Paul speaks of when listing the qualifications of an elder.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Leviticus 10-15

We had the great luxury of having my Jewish neighbors join us for our study of Leviticus 10-15. They brought their authentic Pentateuch complete with Rabbinical interpretations. They also brought a loaf of challah (traditional Sabbath bread). Pretty cool. I tried to refrain from drilling them with questions, but it really was a great element to add to our study of the Book of the Law. Plus, it is just really great having our neighbors over for dinner. They were interested in the practice of us praying for each other, especially when we prayed for their dog which had just run away. At the end of our study, their dog had been found by a neighbor - they were quite surprised by the power of prayer.

Leviticus 10 tells the story of Aaron's sons (paraphrased by me): they improperly lit the incense in the Tabernacle and God burned them alive for their indiscretion. Moses then tells Aaron, "I told you so." And Aaron takes it like a man. Later, Moses accuses Aaron's two remaining sons of improperly handling sacrificial meat (cue ominous music), to which Aaron responds, "We were bummed out about my sons getting fried right in front of us and we didn't feel like eating a bunch of steaks." Personally, I'd have punched Moses in the face. He had it coming.

We then briefly discussed:

  • clean and unclean animals for consumption

  • bodily discharges - who knew semen was "dirty"?

  • Childbirth - women were given a "stigma" because of Eve's inaugural sin in the garden. Paul tells us that Jesus lifted this stigma with his sacrifice.

  • Mold and mildew in the home - this is highly appropriate for those of us living in South Florida.
  • Contagious skin diseases. We noticed that infected people were consistently given the opportunity to be healed and subsequently declared clean. Notice that by the time of Jesus, people who were sick and marginalized were quickly shoved off to the brink of society with little chance for redemption.

In our next Dinner and Discussion, November 18, we'll pick up in Leviticus 16 - The Day of Atonement.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Poll: Southern Baptists Should Not Drink Alcohol

A recent poll by Lifeway Research shows that:

  • 77% of Southern Baptist pastors believe that "Christians should not drink alcohol"

  • 98% of Southern Baptist pastors believe that "drinking alcohol in a public setting can cause others to stumble"

  • 75% of Southern Baptist pastors agreed that "when a Christian does not drink alcohol, this makes non-believers who see this more interested in Jesus Christ"

  • 3% of Southern Baptist pastors admit to drinking alcohol

As a former Southern Baptist pastor, I would have been a part of that 3% that believe that honesty is more important than image.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New City Church

Church Field Trip #18 There are three reasons I wanted to check out New City Church.

  1. The name was different. I'll check out any church with a name that doesn't begin with "First Church of...." or carry a denominational tag in the name.

  2. The logo looks cool.

  3. The Senior Pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, is the grandson of Billy Graham. (I watch Billy Graham preach almost every Saturday night on t.v. This would explain why I am so geeked up to hear the Gospel on Sunday mornings. Graham can really lay the smack down, and I love every minute of it.)

This church was founded about 4 years ago. Their attendance runs at about 500 at two services at the Monarch High School auditorium. Upon arrival, we received no greetings, though one gentleman did hand me a bulletin (a twelve page booklet.) The bulletin/booklet listed just about every piece of information you could possibly want about the church: mission statement, order of service, the words to all of the songs - because they haven't been able to use a projector/screen in the school, 4 pages of ministry descriptions - more than 25 listed, as well as a list of all staff, elders, and deacons - we did notice that all of the deacons were men.

The worship was enjoyable, with a quaint, authentic atmosphere. The style was classic contemporary praise and worship choral anthems without the choir. They didn't do Shout to the Lord, but did manage to work in Awesome God, Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy, and Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow. This church was heavy on the prayer, I like that. Before the sermon had even started, we had already prayed at least 4 times.

The preacher, Pastor Tchividjian, was young, energetic, and articulate. He spoke for almost an hour and he leaned heavily towards philosophy and intellectualism. I understood most of his references to philosophy, theology, authors and speakers, but I doubt that most would be able to keep up with him. I'd say that he was possibly too smart for his own good, at least in presentation. For more than a year now, he has been working his way through the book of Ephesians - a 7 page book with only 6 chapters. This week, he taught on Ephesians 6:13-20 - the armor of God, more specifically the Sword of the Spirit. Here are some excerpts from his teaching:

Sword of the Spirit = God's Word

God's Living Word = Jesus

God's Written Word = Scripture

"Many think that this means that we should simply know Bible verses to use in times of need." He criticized those who continually pick verses out and toss them about, without having a holistic view of the Bible.

"Red-Letter Christians make a fundamental mistake in thinking that the words of Jesus are more important than the rest of scripture."

His grandfather, Billy Graham, turns 89 this week. Recently, Graham told his grandson that he hasn't been able to read the Bible for more than a year because of poor eyesight. He is lucky that he knows the Bible so well through meditation and memorization. (During the sermon, he told 3 anecdotes about his grandfather and grandmother.)

The 3 Big Questions that Everyone Asks:

  1. How did it all begin?
  2. What is wrong with the world?
  3. What is the solution to the problem?

The Story of the Bible Answers those 3 Questions:

  1. Creation
  2. Fall
  3. Redemption

Why don't people read the Bible?

  1. Don't know where to begin.
  2. Don't understand much of what they've read.

He made a few off-the-cuff references to the Gospel. One member of our group described it perfectly by saying that the "preacher danced around the Gospel, but never actually presented it." Bummer. That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bloggers are often Critics

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

But there are times when a critic truly risks something. And that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent and new creations. The new needs friends."

- Food Critic, Anton Ego from the movie Ratatouille

I think that this quote speaks volumes to bloggers, myself included.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

This Beautiful Mess

Pastor Rick Mckinley sent me his book so that I could review it here on Hands down, Rick is one of my favorite preachers. He is the pastor of Imago Dei in Portland. I like listening to Rick because he takes me outside of my comfort zone with his social/green outlook on christian living.

I was not disappointed with this book. I tore through it in about 3 days. Much like his preaching, there were parts that hit directly home with me and there were also parts that took a step outside of my comfort zone. I'll admit that sometimes he loses me with his language and perspective, but that is a good thing. Like I said, it stretches me.

I went crazy with my highlighter and pen on this book and I will definitely be rereading it at some point.

Here are some excerpts that jumped off of the page at me:

  • "You can study God expertly in his parts and miss Him entirely in his being."

  • "When you observe what passes for American Christianity - in politics, on T.V., in churches, - don't you sometimes find yourself saying, 'I don't want to join that team'?"

  • "Relevance happens when we choose to be real people caring for other real people. Authentic relationships make us relevant. You don't have to work at being relevant because love given without any agenda is always relevant."

  • "The American Church doesn't produce martyrs, we produce celebrities."

Also, towards the end of the book, he discusses the viewpoints that he has gathered from having christian friends around the world. These people often look on us "rich American Christians" with pity and concern, and prayer. Compared to much of the world, we are like spoiled millionaires. Don't believe me, check the Global Rich List. Now, given what the Bible has to say about being rich and being a Christ-follower, what does that have to say about our plight? Spiritually speaking, who is better off? Someone in a third world country with almost no material possessions relying completely upon God's providence or someone living in America worried about which (insert material possession here) to purchase next. How ironic that it is them praying for us, worrying about us, feeling sorry for us.

I'm now determined to read his first book, Jesus in the Margins. Thanks for the book, Rick. It's a keeper. Now if I could just get all of the authors on my wish list to send me their books pro-bono.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Posting Comments

It has come to my attention that some of the readers of this site need a primer on posting comments. Here goes. When you read a post and you feel that you'd like to respond to that post with a comment of your own, just simply click on the link at the bottom of the post that reads: COMMENTS.

This will bring up another separate window. There will be an empty box in which you input your comments. Underneath that box will be a code verification (to keep the spammers out). Underneath the code verification, you will have three choices with which to identify yourself.

  1. If you are a fellow blogger, you can sign in. For everyone else, DON'T BOTHER.
  2. You can choose NAME, and simply type in whatever name you want, even a nickname.
  3. You can choose Anonymous.

To date, I have not removed a comment that was posted, so feel free to say whatever comes to mind. I'd be interested in hearing from some of you, who have been reading for months without comment. I know you're there.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

30 Rock - Funniest Show on T.V.

We don't watch much t.v. We'll usually flip on the t.v. while we're eating dinner and watch the Simpsons, Seinfeld, and Family Guy. On Monday nights, we make a concerted effort to watch Heroes, the best show on t.v. On Thursday nights, we'll try to catch Survivor, but it isn't necessarily an imperative. We can't afford a DVR, so we watch t.v. the old fashioned way - we use the VCR to tape the stuff that we want to watch.

We've had digital cable from Comcast for about 3 months now. Their Video On Demand service comes in handy every once in a while. Recently, thanks to VOD, we discovered 30 Rock. It stars Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan from SNL. And Alec Baldwin simply blows the roof off of the show. 30 Rock is roll-on-the-floor funny. Baldwin and Morgan should win awards for their performances. I don't know, maybe they have. As a matter of fact, we can't remember Tracy Morgan being funny at all on SNL. I guess this show just brings it out of him.

We have only watched the first four episodes of the second season. I suppose we'll have to make a trip to Blockbuster at some point to rent the first season. How did I not hear about this show last year? This is the funniest show I've seen since Seinfeld.

Watch this video and tell me it isn't the funniest thing you've ever seen.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Leviticus 3 through Leviticus 9

We read about the Peace Offering, the Sin Offering, and the Guilt Offering. We also read about the ordination of the priests. We learned that God is not a big fan of people eating blood and fat. We discussed the portions of scripture where something is mentioned as being "permanent." Specifically, we related this question to the words of Jesus in Luke 16:16-17.

We noticed the use of the word unintentional in relation to people committing sins. This brought about the question, "How often do we treat people as intentional sinners, when that really isn't the case?" We also read in Leviticus 4, that ignorance of sin does not excuse guilt. We discussed atonement and forgiveness, both essential elements of the Gospel.
We found out that poverty did not opt one out of the sacrificial system. God made it possible for the poor to also participate.

In Leviticus 6, most of the sins that required a Guilt Offering were basically instances of people lying and stealing. That definitely translates to our contemporary culture. Lying and stealing are still two favorite past times for humanity.

We learned that God always kept the sacrificial fire burning because He is always ready to forgive.
This Sunday, Nov. 4, at 6 pm, we will read about Aaron's two sons -priests who blow it and get fried.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

When Christians Attack Episode 1: Halloween

I grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan. My family lived in a middle class neighborhood and went to the Baptist church that my father had been going to his entire life. Every year, on October 31, we celebrated Halloween the way that everyone else did. We dressed up as vampires, bums, cowboys, sometimes donned a hockey mask, and went trick-or-treating to as many houses as our legs could carry us in the time allowed. We always participated in Halloween, and I never even heard mention of such a thing as "harvest night" or any other "Christianternative."

We did not participate in Devil's Night however. You see, where I grew up, October 30 is Devil's Night. If you were able to escape from the parental figures, you went abroad and caused as much havoc as possible. This would usually include toilet papering the trees, egging houses and cars, busting windows, and any other means possible of making a complete mess of the neighborhood. That was Devil's Night in a Detroit suburb. If you lived in Detroit proper, they didn't egg your house on Devil's Night, they set it on fire.

Little did I know that this was a phenomenon peculiar to Detroit. We've been in South Florida now for 7 years and we've had to adjust to the differences in culture. Luckily, South Florida has never even heard of Devil's Night - that's a good thing. Unfortunately, there is some confusion down here about Halloween.
There are some Christians here who were raised in the island cultures where Santeria and other forms of voodoo are practiced. To these cultures, especially in Miami-Dade County, Halloween is a reality which brings about numerous animal sacrifices and, subsequently, their dead carcasses littered about as proof of the way in which some choose to "celebrate" this holiday.

On the other hand, there are plenty of Christians here who have been transplanted from the Bible Belt (Texas, Georgia, etc.). These Christians are generally uptight about everything and Halloween just happens to be the tip of the iceberg.

With that in mind, Halloween is the time of year that my wife and I generally like to avoid Christians altogether. We throw a party each year in honor of our Midwestern heritage (remember the Halloween episodes of Roseanne and Home Improvement?), and we invite all of our friends, even knowing that many of our Christian friends won't bother.

For us, Halloween isn't confusing or difficult. We find that usually, it is the Christians that can be confusing and difficult. No sweat. We'll keep doing our thing, while they do theirs.
Here's some pics from our party this week:

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