Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Roughly two thousand years ago, Jesus was born in a dumpy, rural, hick town, not unlike those today where guys change their own oil, think pro wrestling is real, find women who chew tobacco sexy, and eat a lot of Hot Pockets with their uncle-daddy. Jesus’ mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted a crazy story to cover the “fact” she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom. Jesus was adopted by a simple carpenter named Joseph and spent the first thirty years of his life in obscurity, swinging a hammer with his dad.

Around the age of thirty, Jesus began a public ministry that included preaching, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and befriending social misfits such as perverts, drunks, and thieves. Jesus’ ministry spanned only three short years before he was put to death for declaring himself to be God. He died by shameful crucifixion like tens of thousands of people before and after him.

At first glance, Jesus’ résumé is rather simple. He never traveled more than a few hundred miles from his home. He never held a political office, never wrote a book, never married, never had sex, never attended college, never visited a big city, and never won a poker tournament. He died both homeless and poor.

THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM VINTAGE JESUS BY MARK DRISCOLL.

(LAURA BOUGHT ME VINTAGE JESUS AND VINTAGE CHURCH FOR CHRISTMAS, FOR WHICH I AM GRATEFUL, BECAUSE I NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TO READ)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

90% of churches don't bother with their Twitter/Facebook pages

from Justin Wise on Church Marketing Sucks:


Churches (and a lot of organizations) get swept up in the fad of social media without thinking through a long-term strategy. Someone on staff will get excited, grab a Twitter account or start a Facebook fan page, and then stall out. Once the “high” of getting the first few followers wears off, these social media become dormant and neglected communication channels.

In other churches, you’ll find an ambitious staff person who has taken the initiative for their church. They have started generating content on multiple social networks and are getting a great response. What happens next is someone higher up on the food chain will find out about it and want to control it. Or shut it down. Or turn it into an “info dump”, clogged with redundant church advertisements and announcements. Once that happens, social media fails to be social.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners


Here is a great article from this week's Rolling Stone: Courts helping banks screw over homeowners.


Here is the final paragraph of the article:


When you meet people who are losing their homes in this foreclosure crisis, they almost all have the same look of deep shame and anguish. Nowhere else on the planet is it such a crime to be down on your luck, even if you were put there by some of the world's richest banks, which continue to rake in record profits purely because they got a big fat handout from the government. That's why one banker CEO after another keeps going on TV to explain that despite their own deceptive loans and fraudulent paperwork, the real problem is these deadbeat homeowners who won't pay their bills. And that's why most people in this country are so ready to buy that explanation. Because in America, it's far more shameful to owe money than it is to steal it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Church: According to Legacy

Here is an excerpt from Legacy Church that I liked:


Church (ekklesia) means a gathered and unified people. Legacy Church gathers around a King, not a building or time. I sure didn't grow up this way, so we "went" to church rather than "gathered" as the church. It seems like splitting hairs doesn't it.

Right now we meet in a pretty small place, but will grow to a bigger one, the whole time splitting off in smaller groups. During all of this we never stop being the church. Church is a lifestyle - a people continually on mission together. We might be eating together, working out together, meeting as men, as women. We might be worshipping, studying God's story to us, helping the disenfranchised, you get the picture. The whole time we are the church.

Legacy Church meets at 7905 Woodland Brae, Knoxville TN
Legacy Church meets at 5:30 PM on Sundays

Monday, October 4, 2010

South Florida Amber Alert: Hospitality and Kindness


I was speaking to my new neighbor today. She moved here from Puerto Rico last winter and bought the foreclosed, run-down house next door.


I told her that we were planning on leaving Sunny South Florida at some point for a destination further north. I explained that that were a myriad of reasons for our planned departure (hot weather, cost of living, over-stuffed schools), not the least of which is our aversion to the culture and people of South Florida.


People in South Florida are uncaring jerks, for the most part. Anyone who would deny this is either in denial, or they are in fact one of those jerks. We come from the Midwest (Detroit) where people are actually friendly, and more importantly, neighborly.


In the five and a half years that we've lived in our home, we have extended every effort to build good relationships with our neighbors. No one has returned the favor. With two kids under our roof, we simply no longer want to be "missionaries" to this uncaring culture.


My neighbor, from Puerto Rico, stated that she actually thought that this culture was indicative of the U.S. as a whole. I told her that she couldn't be more wrong. In the Midwest, people are friendly, conversational, and neighborly. We sense it the second we step foot off of the plane in Michigan.


She told me that, where she comes from, the neighbors ask each other for help, hang out together, and aren't afraid to ask for "eggs or milk" when they've run out.


I laughed. I can relate.


I've gone to my neighbors for these things and received looks as if I were some sort of alien. We've invited our neighbors into our home on many occasions. Our immediate neighbors have lived here for 25 years and they've never received such an invitation from any other neighbor in that time. The irony is that our immediate neighbors are the "nicest neighbors" we have - and they are the couple from Brooklyn who always seem like they're yelling. The bar has been lowered.


In Tennessee, my aunt knows everyone who lives in her neighborhood, after only living there a couple years. I count myself lucky because I know about a dozen of my neighbors. Most of my neighbors don't even know each other.


Here's what I don't understand. If South Florida is so full of the Hispanic Culture, why doesn't it have more of an impact on our hospitality to each other? You would think that the Melting Pot/Salad Bowl of South Florida would be a better place to live, but it isn't.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Being "Spirit-Led"

Can being "Spirit-Led" be learned behavior? If one where truly led by the Spirit, wouldn't it automatically be spontaneous, authentic, and unique to the individual?

I was raised in a Baptist environment where "charismatic" was almost a bad word. Upon arrival in South Florida, we begrudgingly became a part of the Southern Baptist Denomination, where "charismatic" was an unspoken bad word.

When I read through the Baptist Faith and Message, I definitely noticed the ill-will that it held toward charismatics. I noticed this same ill-will as I read through the commentary in my John Macarthur Study Bible.

As much as I had no background involving the charismatic lifestyle/worship (whatever you want to call it), I found some of these arguments against it to be weak and reeking of personal bias.

Personally, I'd give someone the benefit of the doubt when they claim to be led by the Spirit - to a point. I'd also say that I'm probably skeptical of these people as well. But this is the conundrum in which I find myself - I'm skeptical, but desiring my skepticism to be discounted.

From personal experience, I've come to believe that in many instances, this Spirit-Led behavior is learned from others, rather than spontaneously given from within. This is unfortunate.

We had a guy going to our church a few years back that would stand in the front row with his arms raised, or sometimes lay flat down on the ground (face down) during worship. Some others in the church complained about his "behavior" citing the usual "Baptist/Biblical" excuse of his behavior being distracting from worship. I disagreed with this criticism, and expressed that his behavior was actually uplifting for me and aided in my worship experience. I wished that I could be the one dancing, raising my hands, and laying on the ground - but the truth is that the Spirit wasn't leading me to do it.

I sometimes look around at the crowd at our Mega-church and wish that the crowd were more into it. I've been to churches where the crowd seems to be totally disassociated with the worship to which they're being led. It makes me sad. Its true that most people find it easier to worship at a sporting event or a concert than they do at church - a depressing fact.

On the other hand, I've been to churches where the congregation is totally into the worship experience. I give them the benefit of the doubt that the experience of most of the individuals is sincere and authentic, but sometimes I wonder. Is it sincere, authentic, and spontaneous, or is it really just learned behavior from those around them? This possibility (and a strong one I suspect) makes me sad as well.

We went to a church a couple years ago where the pastor "prodded" the people into speaking in tongues, and told them what to say if they faltered. This seemed totally inauthentic to me and it was really a downer.

We also went to another church where one of the singers pulled out a Bible and spit out lyrics on the fly right out of the Bible. At the time, I found this practice awe-inspiring, but I've since learned that this is also a trained behavior/skill called prophetic singing. How exactly can you train someone to "sing prophetically"?

This is exactly what I'm struggling with. I want to believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in our churches, our lives, our worship, etc. I don't want to be a Baptist Kill-Joy. As Mark Driscoll puts it, I'd at least like to be a Charismatic with a Seat Belt. But I really struggle with people who are not able to just be themselves. This goes for people on both sides of the fence really. One of the joys that I find in Jesus is the freedom to just be myself, regardless of what anyone else may think of me. This is a joy and a freedom that many Christ Followers miss out on.

When I was a teenager, I went on an outing with the youth group from my church. When the invitation was given at the end of the event, every single youth from our group went forward to answer the call to the invitation. I was left sitting alone with our group leader, Sandy Jelsomino. She leaned over and asked me if I was okay, if I wanted to respond to the invitation. I told her that I kind of did, but I was turned off by the fact that most of my school-mates weren't going forward because of a change of heart, but rather because that was the thing that was expected of them.

At the age of 12 or 13, I'd already declared myself as the anti-hero that I still am today, 20 years later. I refuse to toe the line when it comes to my relationship with God. I'm going to do what comes naturally to me, while still stretching my comfort zone and being open to being led by God's Spirit. I don't want to be a stodgy prude, but neither do I want to be an inauthentic "Spirit-Led" person who's simply going through the motions for which they've been trained.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Christianese


Thanks to the Urban Dictionary......

Christianese:

Christianese is the language spoken by Christians. It makes no sense to anyone unfamiliar with biblical texts, but earns you major points in the eyes of other Christians, because it means your words are holy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Darrin Patrick

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Different Perspective

I was recently given two job offers. While, in the past, I might have jumped at either one of them, this time I was forced to look at them from a new perspective.

As a part of the back-to-school / having kids plan, I am currently waiting tables at the Cheesecake Factory while my wife stays home with our two infants.

Generally, I am a morning person, and would prefer to work 7-3 if at all possible. But given the current circumstances, the gig waiting tables is actually quite agreeable. When given a "day" shift, I don't go in until almost noon, which is very helpful for my wife as she isn't left to fend for herself during the morning hours.

While at first my body was screaming "it's past our bedtime!!" every time I had to work late, after five months, I've finally gotten used to the routine of staying up late and even sleeping in a little.

My wife and I have always had separate health insurance plans because that was the least expensive option - let each of our employers subsidize our premiums individually. But now, as the sole earner for a family of four, health insurance premiums and the coverage they provide were a big factor in the decision making process. The difference between $300 a month and $800 a month is a big deal in our current budget.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important factor, was "Time Away from Home". My last job expected me to work six days a week and pull as many as 10 hours a day. Imagine my appreciation of a workplace (the restaurant) that doesn't want me to work more than 40 hours a week. Not to mention the complete absence of a commute. In my book, commute time counts as "time away from home".

Having a desk job (and back to back pregnancies) helped me to gain weight and reach a lifetime peak of 265 lbs. Not fun. After waiting tables for five months, I've lost 30 lbs - down to 235 lbs. I used to try to go to the gym at 5:30 am but it was nearly impossible.

As much as I hated to "go back to waiting tables", these job offers have made me realize that this is actually the right place for me to be at this time. It's hard to believe. My job is totally flexible, will allow me to go back to school, will provide pretty decent benefits, time at home, exercise, etc.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Graff's: 1 City Furniture: 0

We took our non-functional recliner back to City Furniture as they directed us that they would "allow" us to re-select another piece of furniture for equal or greater value minus a restocking fee of $50. They gave me a form that would need to be filled out by the salesperson on the floor. The salesperson informed me that the guys at the loading dock wouldn't "take back our recliner" unless we also had a purchse order for the reselected piece of furniture.

This sounded a little fishy to me. I decided to call their bluff. At the back loading dock, the under-paid gentleman gladly took back the recliner, flinging it across the floor and ripping it in the process. I remarked on his treating it so roughly, and he exclaimed that "the furniture will just go to a charity, it won't be restocked." Apparently poor people don't appreciate brand-new furniture, and apparently the "restocking fee" is just B.S. That figures. Nothing would surprise me from this company at this point.

Now came the waiting game. Would they refund the money to our credit card? Or would they simply keep an in-house account open for us with the amount that we had spent on the recliner? I called our credit card company and informed them that we had returned the merchandise and we were expecting a full refund from City Furniture. (Hogwash, but worth a try anyways.)

Low and behold, yesterday our credit card statement arrived with a full refund credited, including the "restocking fee" that they had threatened to ensue.

Suck it, City Furniture.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Haves and Have Nots

Recently watched Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore. I was struck by how similar the premise of the film was to the film, Food Inc. Basically, they both propose that the majority of the legislators and regulators in our government are those individuals who proved to be both greedy and immoral in the private sector prior to their public placement. Once they've left the private sector to join the ranks of our government, they basically look out for their own interests (financial) and those of their former business partners, etc.


Moore's movie was actually comforting to me though. Its nice to know that I'm in the majority. Its nice to know that we're not alone in the toilet bowl that is our recent economy, job market, and housing market debacle.



Its kind of weird living in South Florida, because there is still so much money surrounding us. Obviously, not everyone is struggling. We're still surrounded by fancy cars, fancy phones, fancy clothes, fancy cosmetic enhancements, fancy restaurants, and fancy houses.



Working at the Cheesecake Factory is surreal in itself. We've loved the CCF since we first discovered it in Las Vegas more than a decade ago. For us, it was the place we went to once or twice a year for special occasions. Even then, we still restrained ourselves when we went there because the bill can add up pretty quickly at that place. It's weird working there, and watching people, on a daily basis, blow their bill out without a blink - appetizers, drinks, (kids ordering Shrimp Scampi), multiple deserts, cappuccinos/espressos, etc. Not to mention that I see some families in there on a weekly basis. The kids are watching videos and playing games on their iPad while the parents are texting/surfing on their iPhones.



Of course, to put my life into perspective, I simply have to look at my own childhood in comparison.



  • My parents didn't have a new car until I was about 14 years old - my wife and I have had new cars almost our entire adult life.

  • My parents didn't have cell phones - we've replaced our home phone land line with two cell phones since about 2001, though we don't have room in our budget for smart phones or data plans.

  • My parents didn't have a swimming pool - we've got an in ground pool with a screen enclosure.

  • Eating out fancy for my parents (ie, Birthdays) was more like Pizza Hut or Ponderosa Buffet - for us, as I've said, would be the CCF.

  • My parents didn't have Internet costs (and still only have dial-up) - while we have top-speed Comcast broadband at a reasonable $60 a month (sarcasm).

This is one of the reasons why I really enjoy reading God's Word. It makes me feel comfortable. God is pretty consistent about where He places His priorities in our Health and Wealth Worldview. Jesus, even more so. As a matter of fact, the Bible usually makes me feel guilty for not being more thankful for the things that I have been blessed with: a faithful and beautiful wife, two happy, healthy children, a leaking roof over our heads, a hefty grocery bill of wholesome and healthy foods, running vehicles, a job, health insurance, etc.

I'm glad to be one of the have not's - I think it will pay off in the afterlife, and I'm thankful for what we have.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Criticism and Negativity: A Case Study

Recently, I was told that my writing on this site has too often been critical and negative. Especially concerning churches and pastors.

I took it to heart.

Thought about it.

Prayed about it.

Then decided to look for evidence of it.

First off, as a child of the grunge movement of the early 90's, I am familiar with angst. Very familiar. By the time I was 18 years old, my relationship with my father was strained, and I fit very well into the atmosphere that Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Tom Morello had created. During college I became a Christ Follower at 24 and basically did away with it, or at least shelved it.

With my experience of being a pastor at a failed church plant, its safe to say that the angst had somewhat returned. Or at least some sort of disillusionment. Maybe.

I started this site as an outlet for writing. Not an outlet for angst. Though I did start the site the day I left the church plant.

Our church field trips were done for a variety of personal reasons, which I've explained previously. Some may have seen them as critical, but that was merely a misunderstanding of the purpose of the endeavor. In the end, I learned exactly what I had hoped to learn, with a few pleasant surprises along the way. I think its easy to see why some may have misinterpreted both the purpose and execution of those field trips.

I called them field trips on purpose. I wanted to convey the sense that what I was doing was both elementary and for my own purposes, despite the fact that I was publishing my findings. By no means, did I ever intend for it to become a precursor to Jim and Casper Go To Church or http://www.churchrater.com/.

So I decided to go back and read all of my posts on this site. More than 300 of them. That's an average of one post almost every 4 days.

I was actually kind of surprised. I didn't see much of the negativity and criticism that was supposed to be there. There were a few instances of criticism, usually reserved for the likes of Ted Haggard (the pastor who slept with a male prostitute), Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (because they couldn't ever just keep their mouths shut), and Gary Lamb (the pastor who slept with his female secretary). Actually, my criticism of Haggard and Lamb had nothing to do with their indiscretions but rather with their desire to return to ministerial positions. This is something that still touches a nerve for me.

The most recent blog post that I could find that contained what I would call a negative or critical spirit was Pastoral Blog Cliches on March 13, 2008. That means that I have been negative/criticism free more than a year! Wohoo! Ironically, the Pastoral Blog Cliches Rant was largely spurned by Gary Lamb's blog. I loved his preaching, but his blog had so many of these cliches that it drove me nuts. (And this was before he "fell.")

There were few times when I posted a video or even a posting or a quote from someone else that may have been critical. Usually, in these instances, I let them speak for themselves and kept my mouth shut. I take no responsibility, and neither should I, for something that was said by someone else.

That principal also applies to the comments left on this site. I don't think I've ever deleted a comment on this site. If I did, then it must have been pretty bad. Some people have left comments on this site wherein they've read more into my post than was really there. For instance, I've been accused, on certain posts, of being critical or negative, when it simply wasn't there. For these people, I would suggest that they look to themselves as the cause.

In some cases, commentators have literally started fights in the comments section. Once again, I'm not responsible for every nutjob out there who comments on the site. Religion is a combative issue for some people and they just can't resist. Especially so-called Christians.

But really, the comments that upset me are the ones that accuse me - the author - of being negative and critical where that clearly wasn't the case. Perhaps the post just hit a nerve with them and instead of reacting rationally or logically, they decide to start an argument out of it.

I don't know. I don't really care actually, truth be told.

I put quite a bit of thought into most posts before I publish them. That is why I sometimes have nothing to say at all, short of posting someone else's quote. Because I know when it is better to keep my own mouth shut.

I've given quite a bit of transparency on my site. I've told a great deal about my personal life, my beliefs, my experiences, my influences, etc. I've talked about food, books, relationships, missional living, music, religion, church, the Bible, friends, neighbors, etc.

I've poured much of my life into this site (metaphorically speaking) in the last 3 years. To hear someone say that my site was overly critical and negative really hit home with me. I don't want that to be my legacy. I'm not sure what I want my legacy to be, but that surely isn't it.

So I had to dig into my blog and find this negativity and criticism and remove it. I figured, that out of 300 posts, I might have to remove 10 or 20 of them.

I was wrong.

I haven't removed a single one of the 300 posts. I was actually surprised myself.

There were instances where I clearly could have worded a phrase better or more clearly so as not to be misunderstood.

There were instances where I could have simply deleted all the comments that were left (THIS BEING ONE OF THE MAJOR SOURCES OF NEGATIVITY AND CRITICISM ON THE SITE).

But I didn't. I've never deleted anyone's comments. Even when they attacked or criticized me. Why start now?

The posts that were overtly critical - Haggard, Falwell, Lamb, etc. - numbered less than a handful.

But I did find plenty of posts that were praising churches and pastors for various reasons, like preaching the Gospel, living Missionally, being creative, being generous, etc. Of course some of these posts were in reference to our own church, Church by the Glades, but I also commended many other churches including: lifechurch.tv, Epic Remix, Vintage Gathering, Flamingo Road Church, Relevant Church, the Faith Center, Calvary Fellowship, Harbour Church, Solera Church, Plantation Baptist Church, St. Bonaventure, Oakleaf, Revolution, Mars Hill, XXX Church, Oasis Church, Journey Church, Mosaic, Imago Dei, Metro South, Independence, and more.

I've talked about the evolution of the Church Field Trips and also the conclusions of the experience, which were both positive.

If I quit writing on this site right now, I think I might actually be satisfied with the body of work that I've completed.

In conclusion, I want to be clear that I believe that I definitely have the potential for negativity and criticism - I believe that that is an accurate portrayal of my personality. But I was genuinely surprised to find that much of that potential is restrained in the writing of this blog. In addition to the 300 posts that have been published, I've also got at least 30 drafts which have never been published. Some of these were withheld for reasons that should be obvious given the topic of this post - they were not fit for publication due to their nature, content, purpose, etc. In other words, I've got some posts which were not fit for publication and I withheld them.

I think that it is largely true that when I look at churches and pastors, I am definitely capable of thinking critically. Especially when it concerns money and sex, and a continuing desire to pursue ministry despite failing in these two areas while in ministry.

But in my defense, having only discovered so upon reading through every post on this site, I think that I am vindicated of the accusation that my site, and therefore I myself, am too critical and negative.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Different Types of Christians

Over the course of the past decade, I've come to notice that many Christians fall into certain stereotypes (at least from my point of view.) I myself am not immune to this typecasting, I'm sure, but it still amuses me to make note of these personalty types that I come across.



1. Shiny Happy Christian - This is the Christian who loves life and loves Jesus - and makes sure that it is known to all people at all times. They are never angry or cross, but always smiling, singing, and quoting scriptures. I've got friends, close friends, who easily fall into this category. They are always pulling verses out of their memory like arrows from a quill. They are always chiding me for my pessimism, lack of joy, and inability to constantly wear a smile. They make me think of the line from Happy Gilmore: "If I saw myself wearing those clothes, I'd have to kick my own a**." This is how I feel about the idea of becoming a Shiny Happy Christian - I'd probably have to kick my own butt.



2. The New Christian - Any smart Christian should be jealous of the New Christian. They are so full of hope, energy, optimism, and openness to teaching. Of course, this can have its downsides, depending on who is discipling them, if anyone at all. But still, who doesn't want to revisit their "first love" (Revelation 2)? The New Christian might not be full of knowledge, but they are full of emotion and zeal.



3. The Old Christian - Honestly, I don't know what happens to people as they've been following Jesus for quite some time. I've met some of the Godliest people, geniunely good people who seem to lose touch with reality as they have been Christians for an extended amount of time (years and decades). I don't get it. Sometimes, it seems like they've built for themselves a "religion" when the original foundation was nothing but Jesus and The Word. How does this happen?



4. The Anti-Social Christian - This is the Christian who is gung ho about all things Jesus, with one minor exception: the Church. The more organized/corporate the church, the further they want to be from it.



5. The Its All About Church Christian - "Come to my church, its really great. Probably better than your church. You don't go to church? You should definitely come to my church then. The preacher is a great speaker and the music is really cool and relevant." I love it when I tell someone that I am a Christ-follower and thier first inclination is to do the "Church Comparison." Ugh.



6. The Former Christian - They've been hurt in the past. Or they've just become lazy and "fallen away." They have a healthy appreciation of Jesus and His life changing ministry, but just don't seem to have any use for Him anymore.

WHO DID I MISS??

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A worthless ministerial resume

In the past 10 years, my wife and I have never been less fired up about following Jesus. Through the roller coaster that is our life, our love for Jesus has remained a constant. After a decade, I can honestly say that that fact is a big faith booster for me. Our first love hasn’t flamed out or become lukewarm. The way that we show that love to Jesus has evolved, but it has never waned.

We have served the Body in a variety of ways over the past 10 years. We have stood outside directing traffic into worship services, held numerous Bible studies in our home, played in the worship band up on stage, worked with the tech team for worship services, helped to set up physical sets for worship services, visited friends in jail and on house arrest, been to hospitals and funerals a few too many times, held parties, meetings, and baptisms at our home, invited neighbors over to our home on numerous occasions, led Bible studies at church, at home, and even at work, preached sermons, evangelized on the street, at work, and just about anywhere else, been to one too many meetings, hosted youth group events in our home as well as chaperoning many youth outings, started ministries within the church, started ministries outside of the church, fellowshipped with many Christians from many different churches, etc, etc, etc.

The point is - we’ve been involved. Many people make the mistake of thinking that in order to get involved, you have to be called into ministry - as I said before, all Christians are called into ministry. You have to get over this mindset that getting a paycheck for “doing ministry” makes you any more important than those who don’t get paid for it. In fact, it may turn out to be the opposite. Jesus had quite a reputation for flipping the script when it came to our expectations and God’s reality. Especially in the transition between this life and the next.

If my wife and I were to pick up our roots, move elsewhere, and find a new church home, I wouldn’t expect to be able to write a ministerial resume for the new church showing how far we’ve come, with all of our experience counting for something. No. I’d expect to have to start all over again, building relationships, building trust, starting groups, hosting, ministering, etc. And any church that just wanted to see our ministerial resume probably isn't the kind of church that we'd be interested in plugging in to.

Here’s the bottom line: someone who hasn’t been involved in ministry can’t say that they’re being “called into the ministry”. They haven’t even been involved. If anything, they’re actually being called into living the life that all Christians are supposed to be living - a life of service. Remember, It’s Not What You Get, It’s What You Give.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Speaking from Experience

This isn’t just study material that I’ve cropped together to help others. No. I’m speaking from life experience. If I had a Delorean with a Flux Capacitor, I’d travel back to 1993 and give this paper to myself.

Before you call me a hypocrite, realize that I met my wife 17 years ago, at the age of 18 (still in high school) and we were both non-Christians. Call it luck of the draw or divine providence, but high school girls are easier to impress and my salary requirements at that age were non-existent. Still, in retrospect, there were many mistakes that we made (mostly me). We put off adulthood for as long as possible and put off parenting for as long as possible, but we did have fun doing it. And now we’re paying for it. No one should wait until their mid 30's to figure out what they're supposed to be doing. Some people go through their entire lives without bothering to try and figure it out.

Its no mistake that the scriptures speak of ones testing ground for church leadership and ministry being in one’s own family. How many families “do their best” or give it “a good effort” only to have their children grow up apart from knowing Jesus, or worse yet, end up in divorce. There are a lot of churches run by these men who can’t even manage their own families. So family is where you start. And if you don’t have a family, then common sense should dictate that getting a family is where you start.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Slow Down, Step Back, and Rethink.

Once one has discerned a true calling and also has been deemed as qualified by godly peers, then one must formulate a plan of action.

Too many Christians mistakenly think that because they love Jesus and nothing seems to be going right for them in the secular world, then that must mean that they are being called into ministry. This just simply isn’t the case, especially for a man. Unless he has been gifted with singleness and celibacy, a man’s first priority is to figure out how to get a mate, provide for that mate, and also provide for the children that they’ll have. To some, this may sound like an unrealistic, out-dated idea, but it really is Biblical, logical, and full of common sense as well.

To be clear, Paul spoke of singleness as a gift, and a useful one at that. But if a person hasn’t received this gift, then they might as well spend a good deal of time praying, planning, and preparing for the inevitable - marriage. This means that you need to find a decent, stable job with benefits. You need to be able to provide for yourself, your wife, and your kids - heck, maybe even your in-laws too. This means the whole package, including health benefits, life insurance, etc. And your family can’t be expected to live with your parents (remember that whole “leave and cleave” part of Genesis), which means that you’ve also got to be able to provide a roof over their heads.

This is a harsh wake up call for many man-boys between the ages of 18-38, living with their moms or various roommates, playing Call of Duty (or Madden), jumping between jobs, and just barely “getting by.” Before you even consider entering into ministry, you need to first take stock of your life, figure out where you are at, formulate a plan, and most importantly - GROW UP!! Become a man and leave aside boyish ways. Unfortunately, many women/girls out there are equally deluded into thinking that your current lifestyle is “normal and acceptable” and they will settle for it instead of demanding a higher standard in the mate that they choose.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Called to a Higher Office

Scripture is pretty clear about the requirements for one who would desire “a higher office” in the Body of Christ. Elders must be able to protect the flock from false teachers and refute their teaching (Acts 20, Titus 1). They must also feed the flock, being able to teach. (I Tim.) And they must manage the flock, the practical aspect of running a church body.

There are only three abilities required of an elder: He must be able to manage his family household well, provide a model of Christian living for others to follow, and be able to teach and defend the faith

Elders are the male leaders of the church who are also synonymously called pastors, bishops, and overseers throughout the New Testament (Acts 20; Ephesians 4; I Peter 5). The elders are men chosen for their ministry according to clear biblical requirements (I Timothy 2-3; Titus 1). There are two primary places that the Bible defines the qualifications of an elder (I Timothy 2:11-3:7; Titus 1:5-9) and the lists are virtually identical.

I think its funny when you have these heresy hunters who nit pic through the teachings of pastors looking for the opportunities to call them out as False Teachers. Scripture tells us that false teachers will be given away by their lifestyle more often than their teaching - usually involving sex and money. When I did a study on how to spot a false teacher, I was taken aback by this Biblical approach: "Look for the preacher/teacher who is fond of illicite sex and/or money, and there you'll find a false teacher." Once again, God is always looking at our character, not our depth of knowledge.

to be cont.........

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ministry is a calling, not a career

Vol I - Called and Qualified
Vol II - Serving Others
Vol III - Gifted and Talented


Once we have established that all Christians, both laymen and ministers alike, are required to discern and use their gifts and talents, we are left with one important question: What differentiates the lay-leadership from the ordained ministers? Not much, as far as God is concerned. It is we who have placed a large chasm at times between these two groups of people. With ill-fitting titles such as father, pastor, elder, priest, deacon, apostle, reverend, bishop, pope, it has become difficult to truthfully discern what each of the titles are supposed to really mean and who is deserving of them in God’s eyes. Is there a difference between an ordained minister who receives no compensation from the church and a full-time paid staff member who is not an ordained minister? How lightly should these titles be placed upon individuals? “Pastor of Parking“. “Pastor of Weekend Worship Activities“. At what point do the people who claim the title, and oftentimes the compensation, fail to live up to the Biblical description of the job? How many lay leaders are in the Body fully realizing their God-given potential, but completely ignored by the church itself - given no title, no responsibility, and no compensation and furthermore wanting none of these?

Ministry is a calling, not a career. This means that you shouldn't concern yourself with whether or not you are getting paid for it. Unfortunately, too many churches and pastors have this mantra backwards. This is why ministers are chosen based on talent, education, and experience rather than character. And this is also why so many fail, because their character was untested and unqualified. How sad that so many churches actually double dip and bring these men back into ministry even after they have proven themselves unworthy. Some men actually jump from ship to ship leaving a trail of wreckage behind.

to be continued......

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gifted and Talented

Volume I - Called into Ministry....Qualified for Ministry?
Volume II - Serving Others


Let’s start with an appraisal of the spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12 and Romans 12), such as Hospitality - people who have an open home where others are welcome to visit, Mercy - people who easily empathize with others, Leadership - people who serve best by leading others and usually have followers, Giving - people who earnestly give of themselves in order to help others, Encouragement- compassionate, optimistic, patient people who uplift others, Evangelism - someone with a strong compassion for the lost, usually more comfortable outside of the church bubble, Administration - problem solvers with organizational abilities, Helps/Service - “do anything” people who truly understand servant hood, Teaching - people who love to study and then share what they‘ve learned with others, Apostles (i.e. church planters and missionaries) - multi-gifted people willing to brave the unknown, Discernment - people who can quickly discern between truth and falsehood, Miracles - people who usually fly under the radar, but accomplish the impossible or miraculous, Pastor/Biblical Counselor - a true shepherd who helps others with their sanctification process, Healing - people who earnestly and sincerely pray for the healing of others, Faith - optimistic, visionary people who trust God even in the worst situations, Knowledge - people who always want to dig deeper in their studies and compile their findings for others, and Wisdom - people who are able to give realistic life application to Biblical truths. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up and equip the Body of Christ. Notice that none of the gifts are self edifying.

The spiritual gifts differ from natural talents (musical ability, creativity, athletic prowess, computer skills, bow and nunchuck skills) in that one is given at new birth and the other is given at birth. Since no list of spiritual gifts in the New Testament seems altogether complete, compiling all of the lists together still may not result in a complete list (1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 12:28; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11; and 1 Peter 4:11).

to be continued......

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Serving Others

Volume I - Called into Ministry....Qualified for Ministry?

We’ll begin with the basic assumption that someone claiming to be “called into ministry” is a Christ follower to begin with. Of course we’ll ignore the irony that there are most likely many servants within the church and even pastors/elders who don’t actually “know Christ”. Jesus himself predicted that this would be the case. We’ll assume that the subject is indeed a true believer and we’ll even give them the benefit of the doubt concerning their calling - as it can be hard to judge the veracity of one’s calling from God. And many people count on this - that’s why you hear so many people use the phrases “God told me….” or “God spoke to me…..” because who can argue with a private conversation between one person and God?

One of the first things to look for would be a servant’s heart, both in and out of the church. What has this person given of themselves in order to better others? The obvious avenues for this service are usually restricted to time and money - a mistake that many churches make. In other words, those who give the most of their money and/or the most of their time are the best servants. This is a shallow way of thinking though, concerning servant hood, stewardship, gifts, and talents. The first thing that needs to be done is an accurate evaluation of one’s God-given gifts and talents.

to be continued......

Saturday, June 26, 2010

City Furniture: FAIL!!!

Dear Consumerist.com,

A couple weeks ago, I bought a rocker/recliner at City Furniture in Tamarac, FL. The floor model worked fine - rocking and reclining, so I purchased the recliner and took it home. Upon setting it up at home, we discovered that it really didn't rock that well, even though the floor model had rocked just fine. Customer service for City Furniture offered to send out a technician to determine if the recliner was defective.

The technician who came out agreed that the recliner did not rock very well, but that there was nothing that he could do to "fix" it.

The Customer Service agents for City Furniture stated that "the item was not defective" even though the technician agreed with us that it did not rock very well. The agent then went on to explain that all sales were final and there was nothing that could be done to help us, though she did "appreciate hearing our feedback." She also explained, as instructed by her supervisor, that these types of furniture often need to be "broken in" sometimes for as long as 9 months in order to work properly.

Today, we went back to the store showroom to try out the floor model again and sure enough - it rocked just fine. We also spoke to a few salesmen who all agreed with us that the "breaking in" excuse was a poor one and even dishonest at that. We're left with a rocker/recliner that is useless to us (for rocking our newborn daughter to sleep).

We've sent an EECB to all available parties in the company with no response whatsoever, except for the poorly trained Customer Service Reps who really "appreciate our feedback."

Just another case of the customer always being wrong I guess. But at least they "appreciate my feedback" and of course, my money. Too bad its the last of it that they'll be seeing.

Lew Graff
Sunrise, FL
lewgraff@gmail.com

Friday, June 25, 2010

Called into Ministry.......Qualified for Ministry?

What does it mean to be “called into ministry”? Do seminaries really serve a purpose? Is there a distinction between laity and clergy? Is there merit to tent-making or bi-vocational ministry? What is the career path for someone wanting to escape the secular world and work only within the church bubble? If someone is called by God, does it really matter if they are qualified?

In addition to being called, one must also be qualified. There is plenty of scriptural evidence of the qualifications necessary for being in ministry (particularly being an elder/pastor). The common denominator among these are a matter of character, not talent.

Too many churches today are concerned with one’s schooling or talent or experience, leaving aside the importance of character which God places at the forefront in scripture.

First off, realize that every Christian is called into ministry. Moreover, every Christian is required to use their gifts and talents, spiritual and otherwise, to build up and equip the body of Christ. These would include spiritual gifts (as listed and described in scripture) but also talents that they have acquired through real-world experience which might also be of some use.

One sign of maturation/sanctification for a Christ-follower would be the realization of this principal: Its not what you get, its what you give. (special thanks to Tesla for that Biblical principal) The Bible is full of admonishments, warning and encouraging that the work that you put into the Body here on earth will be responsible for the authority/responsibility given in heaven.

So then, what is the difference between lay leaders in the church and ordained leaders in the church? Good question. Is there a difference at all? Also, what is the difference between unpaid volunteers serving the church and full-time paid staff members? Another good question.

to be continued......

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Work

I've written a five page paper which I'm going to break into pieces and post here. It is a first draft, but I'm going to post it anyways.

Hopefully, each post isn't too long.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear

from Spurgeons Lectures to My Students, A Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear:

"To go about the congregation ferreting out disaffection, like a gamekeeper after rabbits, is a mean employment and is generally rewarded most sorrowfully. When nothing is to be discovered which will help us to love others we had better cease from the inquiry, for we may drag to light that which may be the commencement of years of contention. I am not, of course, referring to cases requiring discipline, which must be thoroughly investigated and boldly dealt with, but I have upon my mind mere personal matters where the main sufferer is yourself; here it is always best not to know, nor to wish to know, what is being said about you, either by friends or foes. Those who praise us are probably as much mistaken as those who abuse us, and the one may be regarded as a set off to the other, if indeed it be worth while taking any account at all of man's judgment. If we have the approbation of our God, certified by a placid conscience, we can afford to be indifferent to the opinions of our fellow-men, whether they commend or condemn. If we cannot reach this point we are babes and not men.


Some are childishly anxious to know their friend's opinion of them, and if it contain the smallest element of dissent or censure, they regard him as an enemy forthwith. Surely we are not popes, and do not wish our hearers to regard us as infallible ! We have known men to become quite enraged at a perfectly fair and reasonable remark, and regard an honest friend as an opponent who delighted to find fault; this misrepresentation on the one side has soon produced heat on the other, and strife has ensued. How much better is gentle forbearance ! You must be able to bear criticism, or you are not fit to be at the head of a congregation; and you must let the critic go without reckoning him among your deadly foes, or you will prove yourself a mere weakling. It is wisest always to show double kindness where you have been severely handled by one who thought it his duty to do so, for he is probably an honest man and worth winning. He who in your early days hardly thinks you fit for the pastorate may yet become your firmest defender if he sees that you grow in grace, advance in qualification for the work; do not, therefore, regard him as a foe for truthfully expressing doubts; does not your own heart confess that his fears were not altogether groundless ? Turn your deaf ear to what you judge to be his harsh criticism, and endeavor to be better."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Standard of Christian Parenting


I turned my life over to Jesus when I was 24 years old, during my last year of college. I immediately sought out and joined a group that my dad had recommended years earlier called the Navigators.

That last year in Michigan, I mostly went to church by myself, and also went to the Navigators meetings. When we moved to South Florida, shortly before we were married, my wife, Laura, through her own journey of Faith Discovery also became a believer. At first, we went to Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale until we were led to our current church. (And anyone that knows us knows about the failed attempt at a church plant.)

Over the past decade, we've grown together in our Faith and Understanding of Jesus and His Mission. Through the good times and the bad. Interestingly, we seem to do the most growing during the bad times, when circumstances try to get the better of us.

When we turned 30, our biological clocks started ticking and we took seriously the idea of starting a family, though naive as to all that that would entail. Almost 4 years later, we were blessed with a little boy. This past year has been the hardest (economically) and also the greatest - emotionally, relationally, and spiritually - of our entire lives. This coming month, we are expecting a little girl, which I can imagine will only increase our joy exponentially.

We've both discussed the idea that, with only Grant by our side, at times, he seemed like a little side-kick. He was fun to have around, but not too much trouble. But with a little girl on the way, we are feeling more like a family. And we are seriously starting to lay down a plan on how we are going to raise them spiritually and practically.

For Christmas, my wife bought me a book called Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna - I wrote about it a few months ago. Obviously, I could kill myself reading a plethora of books about parenting, but I don't intend to.

Over the past decade, we've seen some great examples of parenting amongst some of the Christian friends that we've made. We cherry-picked some of their elements in order to form our own plan for raising our kids.

We've seen, first-hand, families that pray together every day, more than once a day even. We've seen families that engage their kids in discussions spanning Biblical and spiritual matters, as well as anything else that may be pertinent.

We knew one family, in particular, with six kids. The mother home schooled all six kids. At times, I would hear people at church criticize them for their lack of commitment to church or church activities. They were involved in church, but I think that people saw their potential for impact and were disappointed that they weren't more involved.

But now, with our own family forming, I think I can see more clearly the priorities of the "home-school" brood. With six kids and two adults, they were practically their own "small group". Let's face it, with that many kids, every day at home is basically a "cell church". Which makes me wonder. How many kids do you need to have, to take on that sort of function?

As we've discussed our plan for raising our children, we've both agreed that we are going to raise the standards by which we both were raised by our own parents. Having read Barna's recommendations for standards, I can't say that I would commit to all of the standards that he prescribes in his book. Not because I disagree with them on principle, but because I don't think that some of them are a realistic fit for our personalities and our family.


Also, as I've stated, there are some examples that we've seen first hand that we are definitely going to incorporate into our familial plan. Obviously, we never know what kind of curve balls God is going to throw at us, but we actually usually have a better batting average against curve balls anyways.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Standard for Christian Parenthood: a brief history.


I think that it is safe to say that I was raised in a Christian home environment, though that terminology is much too vague to really say much of anything. So I'll be more specific.

Our family went to church every Sunday. Our church was a few miles away, in the neighboring city. No one at our church went to the same school as me or lived near me, so mostly, I only saw them at church or at church-related activities.

My grandparents actually lived near the church, and more often than not, we'd go to their house for Sunday dinner after church. If I'm to understand correctly, they'd been going to this church for a long time. It was the same church that my father was raised in. According to my memory, there were usually about 100 people at service each week, maybe 250 on Easter or Christmas.

When I was younger, my dad actually led the youth group and I have a few associated memories of the teenagers being at our house or going along with whatever activity they were doing. By the time I was a teen, my dad was no longer involved in the youth group (I never quite understood this. You'd think it'd have been the other way around.)

My dad had quite a few "guy" buddies from church that would often come over to our house to hang out, work on the car, play a board game, or watch a football game. I don't ever remember my parents hanging out with other couples or other families, just the "guys".

He did a lot of reading. Over the years, he managed to build quite a library, especially for a non-pastor, blue collar factory worker. Though my dad read a lot of theological books, I think it was more of a personal thing for him. I don't remember many familial discussions involving us or my mom about my dad's thorough interest in theology and ecclesiology.

He listened to John Macarthur sermons on a regular basis, so we were exposed to this by sheer proximity. The only at-home aspect of my father's faith that I think he really went out of his way to include us was music. He made sure that we were involved in singing at church, with or without him. He also included us in his musical selections at home and abroad (while driving). We listened to a lot of worship music. Also Contemporary Christian Pop (80's) and even Contemporary Christian Rock (80's). We rarely listened to secular music - if we did, it was usually piano based (as he played the piano).

Occasionally, he would announce that we were going to start "praying together" before meals. This was always short lived. The only time that we were guaranteed to pray before a meal, was Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Also, he would occasionally announce that we were going to start "studying the Bible" together as a family. This would also be short lived.
Obviously, he wanted these things to happen, but I think he just didn't have the "stick-to-itediveness" to make these elements a regular part of our upbringing.

My mom always played the part of dutiful wife, and probably didn't have as much of a discernible impact on our family as a whole, though she obviously shaped my own personal character development much more so than my father.

When we moved, an hour south, to another part of Michigan, my father pretty much stopped going to church (for a few years). I never really knew why, but I have a theory. I think that upon leaving the church that he'd gone to for all of his life, he was kind of at a loss as to what to do next. He also had the precedent set already by his own father, who had simply stopped going to church late in his life. I think those few years out of church were a time of reevaluation for him. In retrospect, he clearly came out a more mature Christian who took his faith more seriously. It was actually kind of cool to watch my dad mature as a Christian during the last 10 years of his life - at least, from my point of view.

My mother, on the other hand, just found a new church right away and kept going each week. My brothers and I had one of two choices - keep going to church every week with mom, or use dad as an excuse to stay home from church. I've never asked my brothers how this season of my dad's affected them, but for me, it made it that much easier to let my upbringing fall by the wayside once I was off to college.

When I first arrived at college, I made a few pathetic attempts to get into a Bible group on campus, but the endeavor didn't last long and was soon forgotten.
In my next post, I'll address the Faith Journey that my wife and I began at the age of 24, just before we were married.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Who or What sets the standard for Christian Parenthood?


Our church has about 900 worshippers in each of its services.


Our church has multiple services each weekend on both Saturday and Sunday.


Our church is pretty loud and chaotic, with people milling about and laser lights shooting each way.


Our church sets aside the last couple rows in the auditorium for families with young children. (So one can get up when their young one begins to "act up.")


Our church has a cry room - this is a secluded room at the back walled off by sound proof glass and bathed in a soft blue light. This room is filled by babies, toddlers, and their parents.


Actually, all of these elements come in pretty handy for us - because we have a 12 month old and another infant due at the end of this month.


For me, this is just another "season" in our Christian Journey together. To be perfectly honest, we really have no interest in putting our 12 month old into the nursery with a bunch of other babies. This isn't a reflection on our church's nursery but rather of the fact that our son has been pretty successfully secluded up to this point and it seems to be going well. (He has only gotten sick once. I know, there's the school of thought that says that he will get sick either way sooner or later. That's fine. I choose later.)


Being in this "season" though, has given me plenty of time to ponder our future, or rather, the future of our family as it relates to the Christian Faith and Church in general.


In my next post, I'm going to back up a step and review my own upbringing and how that has shaped my current views on Christian Parenthood.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fix You

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan


If Food Inc. was the 90 minute encapsulated story of our corrupt modern day food system, then this book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, is the six part mini-series.


This was a great read. I'm really liking this author right now. He isn't too much of a nut job, more of a recent convert. I actually watched Oprah last week because he was going to be on the program - I've never seen her show before.


He basically lays out his own journey of self discovery and revelation concerning the meat industry, the poultry industry, farming, chemical farming, corn subsidies, sustainable living, the hypocrisy of the "organic industry" - I'm looking at you, Whole Foods, etc.


He tells firsthand, about his forays into these areas and the eye-opening results. He explains that, somehow, killing the chickens and shooting a wild pig himself, made him appreciate their sacrifice when he later sat down to eat them.


Pollan lays bare the deceptive labeling practices in the food industry, especially the "organic" foods.


I have to say that this book actually created more questions than answers. And the author readily acknowledges this problem at the conclusion of the book. Once again, its not a matter of becoming completely sustainable - a near impossibility in our modern day food economy. Its simply a matter of taking small steps to move closer towards a sustainable lifestyle.


This book was a quick read - I think I tore through it in less than 48 hours. I'm now convinced that his other two books - In Defense of Food, and Food Rules - have become must-reads if I can get my hands on them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food Inc.

During college, my fiance (now my wife) announced to me that she was a soon-to-be vegetarian. This came as quite a shock to me as she had never mentioned anything of the sort up to this point. I was a bit stunned and wasn't sure what to think. I was a little bit angry with her for coming to this decision without mentioning it to me at all.

In my mind, if she was going to be a vegetarian, then I was going to be one as well. There was no doubt about it. We did everything together. I wasn't going to let her go it alone, even if I had no idea how exactly to extract meat from our diet.

There had been some clues leading up to the announcement. She had always been an animal lover. She had been a financial contributor to PETA, though acknowledging that their philosophy went "too far." She couldn't really eat red meat anyways, because of a disease that makes it hard for her digestive system to process it.

So basically, she was going to cut out chicken. (More importantly - chicken fingers - as almost every young girl between the ages of 12 and 22 lives off of chicken fingers. Just ask any waiter in a restaurant).

The eating of fish was and never really has been an issue for either of us.

There was an article in Newsweek by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in April of 1999 that really hit home with both of us. We still have the article:


I Don't Like Green Eggs And Ham!
Industrial Farming Isn't Just Bad For Hogs, Chickens And The Environment. It Produces Tasteless Food.


Long story, short - we figured out how to remove meat from our diet, added some new "vegetarian" items into it, and life went on enjoyably.

Our vegetarianism lasted a few years. What killed it was our love for occasionally eating out at restaurants - it was just too hard to be a vegetarian at most restaurants. When we finally did introduce meat back into the diet, we took it slowly and carefully.

We definitely buy into the theory that over-consumption has prompted over-production in the food industry. We still eat very little red meat. We might eat out once a week and its almost never for fast food - fast food is practically a bad word in our house. We love to cook at home. Many of our "vegetarian" recipes from the college days have survived to this day!

We wouldn't think of putting meat into chili or spaghetti or shepard's pie. We also still regularly visit the "vegetarian" alternative section of the supermarket - boca patties, veggie burgers, etc. We eat eggs again, but we go out of our way to buy the packages that make statements such as "free range", "hormone free", "vegetarian fed", etc.

That is our very brief history of poorly attempted sustainable living.

I really didn't think I'd learn anything from watching Food Inc., as we've been well versed in much of the food industry's antics.

I was wrong.

I learned quite a bit more from Food Inc. Things I wish that I could unlearn.

I don't want to give an exhaustive explanation of the movie because I think that it is 90 minutes well spent by anyone. Just as Supersize Me was a few years back. (You can watch the film for free on Hulu - the guy eats McDonald's every day, every meal for 30 days and it almost kills him. McDonald's got rid of their Supersize menu after that.)

Food Inc. really just kicked me further into the rabbit hole of just how corrupt our food system has become. How I can't really trust any of the labels on my food - because they're just another marketing scam to take advantage of my sensibilities.

That said, I'm on to read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. He was one of the main contributors to the the film. (FYI, the film also referenced another pertinent predecessor, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, which I read a while back as well. It didn't hit home so much because we don't really eat fast food to begin with.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nostalgia

My wife recently said that I was the most nostalgic person that she knows. I think she meant it as an insult, but I'll take it as a compliment.

I would agree that I've been more nostalgic as of late. I think it has to do with a few different factors. For one, I'm quickly closing in on a mid-point in my life - of course, that's optimistically assuming that I'll live to see 70 or 80 and not die of a heart attack at 52 like my father. Otherwise, I've already passed the mid-point.

Second, I've recently become a father of a little boy, and soon to be, a little girl as well. This definitely causes me to give a great deal of thought to how I was raised.

Third, my father's passing two years ago has had me in a retrospective mood ever since. Thinking about what he was able to accomplish and what he had wished to accomplish.

Fourth, I've reached an impasse, career-wise, and I've made the decision to pursue a more fulfilling career path. Let's face it, I haven't really had a "career" at all these past ten years, just a series of paychecks.

The instance that spurred this comment from my wife, was when she saw multiple episodes of the Roseanne show saved on the DVR. She attributed this to nostalgia. Actually, I'd say that my being drawn to this show is more than nostalgia. If it were simply nostalgia, I'd also be recording the Cosby Show and Home Improvement.

No. The reason that I'm drawn to Roseanne is that same reason that it really struck a cord with me during my childhood - I can relate to it.

My family didn't fight like the Conners. My family was a little more on the "church-going" side of the middle-lower class rung of the ladder. But I definitely grew up around families like the Conners. And the Mid-western middle-lower class lifestyle was the most resounding aspect of the show that I could relate to.

I've tried to think of other shows that pulled this off and couldn't really come up with any. Maybe "My Name is Earl"? No. That show is just goofy, and purely done for the comedic effect. Nothing about it seems "real." The characters are extreme characterizations of "white trash" stereotypes.

How about "Malcom in the Middle"? Again, this show isn't grounded in enough reality to make it impactful.

It's funny. I used to think that Roseanne was too real, and not funny enough. But now I actually appreciate this aspect of the show.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010





Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Horizontal axis shows months. Vertical axis shows the ratio of that month’s nonfarm payrolls to the nonfarm payrolls at the start of recession.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hot Linking

I looked up one of my old posts recently and was surprised to see a somewhat offensive picture that simply said "Stop Hotlinking". I have to confess that I had no idea what this meant. So here is a quick tutorial:

Hot-linking is when someone uses a link to an image that is saved on another website instead of saving a copy of the image on the website that the picture will be shown on. For example, instead of saving picture.gif and loading it on to their own website, the person uses a link to the picture as http://website.com/picture.gif. Hot-linking uses the bandwidth of the person who owns the website where the picture is stored. This costs that person money.

In some cases website owners replace any hot-linked images with an offensive image to deter any other website owners from hot-linking.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union


In his speech last night, President Obama hit a few nerves while describing our state of the union. I actually almost found myself misty-eyed as he basically described our situation almost to a tee. I suppose I should be comforted that this at least shows that I'm in good company with so many other people.

Here are a few quick excerpts that President Obama mentioned in his opening remarks:


"You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights."

"One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. And for those who'd already known poverty, life has become that much harder. "

"This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades -- the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college. "

"I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children -- asking why they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work. "

"For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems."

"The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life."


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" might be my favorite song. Or at least the song that has the deepest emotional effect on me.

Early this morning, while rocking my son to sleep, I found myself worshipping and praying to God - and listening to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". The song is on a CD of lullaby songs that we play for my infant son while he sleeps in his nursery.

Its easy to worship God while listening to music that was made for that purpose - songs about God's character, his Son, and what He's done for us through His sacrifice. But for some reason, I find it almost more geniune, when I find myself worshipping Him through means that might otherwise not have been meant for that purpose.

I liken it to the difference between "going to a church service" in order to worship God, as opposed to worshipping Him on a daily basis no matter the circumstances. A great many people never realize that this is not only possible, but preferable, as far as God is concerned. This is how Paul was able to stay positive, even joyful, in the face of trial and tribulation. This is why we've seen people pulled from the rubble in Haiti this week singing songs about faith.

I'm not exactly sure why "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" affects me so deeply - perhaps for a number of reasons. One - The Wizard of Oz definitely held some wistful meaning for me as a child. It was only on television once a year, which made it somewhat of a delicacy. Two - two of the most romantic movies that I know both end with this song during their climactic coupling - You've Got Mail and 50 First Dates.

But still, listening to the song while rocking my son to sleep this morning made me think of an even more probable reason. The song evokes a feeling that dreams are possible. That things will get better just around the next corner. That God has better things in store. That a wonderful world of color is beyond this world of black and white drabness and ugliness.

Or my wife's pregnancy hormones are getting to me and I just need to go back to sleep.


When all the world is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around,
Heaven opens a magic lane
When all the clouds darken up the skyway,
There's a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your window pane
To a place behind the sun,
Just a step beyond the rain

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stop going to church


Here is a good post that I found over at boundless.org:


Stop Going to Church

by Jonathan Dodson


For years I went to church. Religiously. I actually went to church for about 25 years. Then I stopped. I'm so glad I did. Instead of going to church, I started being the church. It's radically changed me. They have changed me. My family has gotten bigger.

The church is supposed to be a family. But there's a problem. The church in America is too often very un-church. As a result, a lot of people say that they like Jesus, but they just don't like the church.


Unbelievable Churches

Some churches are fortresses. Groups of combative soldiers that enforce their doctrine, hide behind their high and holy walls, and launch grenades of judgment into the culture. The mission is doctrinal conformity, not grace. The community is in-grown not inviting.

Other churches have more in common with shopping malls. They are filled with salesmen and consumers. The salesman market the church to the world. They dress her up like the culture, dress down the message of Jesus, and sell the consumers short on the gospel, community and mission. Unlike fortress churches, the shopping mall mission is not to keep people out but to get people in. At quite a high cost, people pile into the building and out of the building wondering if this is all there is to church.

Then there are the cemeteries — lifeless, irrelevant, stodgy churches. These churches are trapped in time, disconnected from contemporary issues. Somehow they've lost the joy of the Lord. Calcified by religion, they offer virtually no community or mission.

When our churches have more in common with fortresses, shopping malls and cemeteries, who can blame America for not liking the church, for not receiving in her, for not joining the movement?

Family Church

Church is not an event, a place or a plant. It is a family of brothers and sisters united in the Spirit and the Son. The church is a community, people in relationships under grace. So the church is supposed to be a family, but we act more like acquaintances.

Instead of sharing life and truth, joy and pain, meals and mission, we share one, maybe two events a week. Church has been reduced to a spiritual event that happens for an hour or two on weekends, and if you are spiritual, occurs another couple hours during the week in a small group meeting. We spend just enough time "at church" to be religious, but nowhere near enough time to be family.

The dominant metaphor of the church in the New Testament is the metaphor of family. Every one of Paul's letters opens by addressing the church in familial terms — sisters, brothers, son, and our Father. The use of "brother" is, by far, the most frequent. This sibling emphasis reflects the familial nature of the church. What would happen if we started acting like family?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Falwell is gone..... when can we get rid of Robertson too?


The Rev. Pat Robertson is offering his own absurd explanation for why a quake hit Haiti: Many years ago, the island's people "swore a pact to the devil."

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," the controversial televangelist said during an interview Wednesday on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"They were under the heel of the French...and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'"

Robertson continued: "True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

Robertson went on to note that though Haiti shares the same island with the Dominican Republic, it remains desperately poor while its neighbor is "prosperous, healthy and full of resorts."

"[Haitians] need to have a great turning to God, and out of this tragedy, I'm optimistic something good may come," Robertson said.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Murder Trial and Abortion Debate

Jury selection begins this week in the murder trial of a man who admits he fatally shot Dr. George Tiller, one of four abortion providers in the country who performed late-term abortions.

But if defendant Scott Roeder has his way, abortion also will be on trial when testimony begins.

Roeder, 51, has never denied shooting Tiller. In statements to the news media and in pretrial memos, he has asserted that he was justified under the theory that he was trying to save the lives of unborn children when he gunned down Tiller at Sunday church services on May 20, 2009.

Tiller, who had been performing late-term abortions in his Wichita clinic since 1973, was serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church when Roeder shot him in the head at point-blank range.

Read the criminal complaint

Sedgwick County prosecutors have fought to keep the issue of abortion out of the trial, and even the presiding judge has said he does not want the case to become a venue for a debate on the legality of abortion.

With Roeder's beliefs expected to be the focal point of the defense case, the trial could become the next forum in the fierce debate over one of the nation's most emotionally charged and divisive issues.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Religion Saves by Mark Driscoll



Way back when, Mark Driscoll decided that he was going to base a sermon series on the questions put forth by thousands of internet denizens. He called the series, Religion Saves: and 9 other Myths. I mentioned it in my Ask Anything Post. He claimed that much of Paul's Epistles were done in the same vein - answering questions that the Church was struggling with - like, "If I sleep with my stepmom, is that bad?" (I Corinthians)





It was during this preaching series that Driscoll began taking questions from the audience during the sermon (Oral Sex Virgins, Masturbation, and Pregnant Rape Victims) . They would text in their question and he would respond to some of them after the conclusion of the sermon. He has since continued this practice.





In the book, Driscoll devotes a chapter to each of the questions that were highlighted in the series.

1.Birth Control



2. Humor


3. Predestination


4. Grace


5. Sexual Sin


6. Faith and Works


7. Dating


8. The Emerging Church


9. The Regulative Principle

I'm not a huge fan of reading a book that is based on a sermon series I've already heard, but the truth is, I'd rather read a rehash books of Driscoll's than most of the other books out there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dad's Big Book of Pathetic Childhood Stories


My wife says that she is going to start compiling for this book in the near future. She says that my book of Pathetic Childhood Stories is going to be a multi-volume tome.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna



The cover art and title of this book would make you think that it is somewhat of a sequel to his book, Revolution. But it isn't. It is actually more of a sequel to his book, Think Like Jesus. I think that he just used the titling and cover art (as he did with Pagan Christianity) because the book, Revolution, was groundbreaking and controversial and therefore, popular.




If you'll remember, Think Like Jesus (which I reviewed way back when) used short tests amidst his polls to measure whether people were actual Christians or not - not just whether they gave lip-service to the label of "Christian". Obviously, such a test is practically impossible to give credence to, but it still enables one to sift a bit of the garbage away, so to speak.




Barna, then went further and gave people a slightly longer test to determine whether they had a Biblical worldview or not. He went on to say that those people with a solid Biblical worldview lived lives that were vastly different from those who did not have a Biblical worldview - despite whether or not they claimed to be a Christian.




In Revolutionary Parenting, Barna takes this idea a step further and polls children, teenagers and young adults (20 somethings). He determines which of these children/teens/young adults has a Biblical worldview and then tries to find common threads among the familial culture in which they were raised.




Once again, using his research, Barna is quick to point out that he is only the messenger, and that some of his findings are counter-cultural. This would be where this book ties in with Revolution - as he finds that "parenting that produces spiritual champions is often with little or no help from the Church."




Some of his findings:






  • The lion share of responsibility for raising children falls upon parents, not churches, schools, or daycare workers - no matter how much time children spend in these institutions. The more time parents spend with their children, the more success they have in spiritually shaping them.


  • Parents who put the emphasis on character development rather than academics, sports, arts, or other distractions have the most success.


  • Single parent homes are screwed. Seriously. As he puts it, the research simply shows that if you are a single parent, you are screwed.


  • One-income families are profoundly more successful at raising spiritual champions, despite its counter-cultural position. He says that families that bite the bullet and figure out how to leave one parent at home have a huge statistical advantage - like it or not.


  • Parents who use strong disciplinary measures - strict adherence to threatened punishments, curfews, etc. - have a big advantage despite the counter cultural trends.


  • Parents who pray together (outside of mealtime grace), study the Bible together, and engage in Spiritual discussion together have the major advantage over parents who rely on the Church and Youth Groups to cover this ground.


  • For the 20 odd-years that you are a parent to a child, this responsibility should be your primary responsibility. Not second or third to anything or anyone else.


Basically, the wishy-washy mediocre so-called "Christians" that were outed in Think Like Jesus are breeding and raising wishy-washy mediocre so-called Christians in the next generation.

Friday, January 1, 2010

All I Want for Xmas is........ Books.

My wife asked me back in November for any Xmas requests. I gave her my Amazon.com wish list. I've been adding to it for a couple years now. I haven't bought any books lately because of a lack of time and a lack of funds. So the list has grown to almost a dozen books.

To be honest, I haven't done much extra-Biblical reading lately. That is probably a good thing, as most of the books out there are probably drivel - especially the books written for those in ecclesiastical leadership. Even if I'm no longer in the role of a pastor, those are probably the books I'd read anyways.

With a lack of new books to read, I've recently revisited those few books which have been most influential on me. Three to be exact.

Radical Reformission - by Mark Driscoll
Revolution - by George Barna
Confessions of a Reformission Rev. - by Mark Driscoll

Radical Reformission showed me the kind of Christian that I wanted to be - or was meant to be.
Confessions showed me the type of Pastor I'd most likely be were I given the chance to lead others spiritually.
And Revolution showed me that there is indeed life outside of the church bubble, a life of faith and Christian Living. I've been lax to mention this book too much for fear that its namesake might misconstrue certain motivations behind the namesake of this blog. NO, THIS BLOG ISN'T ABOUT LEAVING THE CHURCH BEHIND AND STARTING OUT ON A MISSIONAL HOUSE CHURCH LIFESTYLE FORSAKING ORGANIZED RELIGION.

Nonetheless, the book did indeed have a profound impact on me and still does to this day. Barna has a unique way of using his "research" (he is the premier pollster of religious matters in the U.S.) to necessitate the writing of his books. In other words, he argues that the statistics speak for themselves - and he is just the messenger of the story that those statistics tell. In the case of Revolution, the story (and the statistics) tell of a sub culture of Christians who have left and are leaving the Church in order to pursue a vibrant, active, healthy Christian lifestyle on their own.

Because of this, two Barna books were on my list - Pagan Christianity and Revolutionary Parenting. Pagan Christianity is a book he authored with Frank Viola about the Pagan roots of what we call the "modern church" Pagan roots of: preaching, worship, buildings, pastors, ordered worship, church business practices and models, etc. It is an incendiary book that goes a little too far into the rabbit hole of "the Organized Church is putting a stranglehold on the modern Christian which makes a healthy relationship with Jesus almost an impossibility." Nonetheless, I'd like to read Pagan Christianity, and I have read parts of it while sitting in Borders.

Revolutionary Parenting is a book that I actually received from my wife (thank you very much) and I will devote a subsequent post to it's review. Being a new parent, and a fan of the book, Revolution, I thought it would be an appropriate read at this juncture.

Driscoll's first two books were groundbreaking for me. Radical influenced me as a Christian, and Confessions influenced me as a pastor. Having been out of a leadership role, spiritually, for some time, Confessions doesn't hold the same grip on me as it did - neither does any other ecclesiastical book for that matter. When you're not in the thick of it, what's the point in reading about it?

I think I've read Radical Reformission at least half a dozen times by now. Surely a record for me. I've reread favorite books from time to time, but none of them that many times for sure. This book is what turned me on to Driscoll in the first place. He thinks like I think. He talks like I talk. Just about everything he says connects with me in some way - even when I disagree with him, or especially when he is convicting me of sin and making me feel bad about it - which Driscoll does quite often, especially in his preaching. Let's face it, as a man, a father, and a husband - I AM A PATHETIC FAILURE. And Driscoll specializes in showing men when they are Pathetic Failures. So this hits home with me quite often.

I've neglected to purchase any of Driscoll's subsequent books for a few reasons:

  1. He's become an internationally popular preacher/pastor. He could write a book about pooping, get it published, and sell thousands. Just because he starts putting out a bunch of books, doesn't mean that they'll have the impact of those first two.
  2. He has basically been publishing book versions of his Sermon Series - admittedly. I've already listened to the sermons, do I really need to read the book too? Is this just a ploy to capitalize on his popularity?
  3. Most authors, like musicians, proceed to push out more of the same, never offering something new or worthwhile. This is one of the reasons I like Rick Warren. Having written Purpose Driven Church and Purpose Driven Life, he really hasn't written anything since. I like that about him. He could have easily made millions by writing subsequent books like Purpose Driven Potato Salad, Purpose Driven Parenting, and Purpose Driven Ping Pong. But he didn't.

Driscoll's language, interpretation, and way of thinking appeal to me so much, though, that I couldn't stay away from his books forever. So I added them to my wish list.

And my wife got me one for Xmas - Religion Saves. I will also post my review of that book as well.

I know that I haven't written much lately - too busy, too distracted, too whatever. Maybe that will change. Maybe not. Either way, I'm making up for it this New Year's Eve. Unloading on my trusty blog all that is weighing me down.

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