Love Your Enemies

Do yourself a favor and click on over to Donald Miller's recent blog entry on Loving Your Enemies.  If nothing else, watch the video he has there.  It's especially appropriate given all the time we've been spending together in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.  We only have a few lessons left and I'm feeling sad about that right now.  I'm not sure where we're going next, but I need to decide.  Any thoughts? I think a lot of you would really like Miller's book Blue Like Jazz if you haven't already read it.

He's a Christian, too? I didn't know that.

A couple of weeks ago I pointed you to an article in Relevant Magazine about Chuck star Zac Levi and his faith.  The cover article of the latest issue is about Bear Grylls, the star of Man vs. Wild.  It’s a great article, in which he talks about his faith and his life.  You can click here to read it.  Be warned, Relevant uses a digital format for their current issue that isn’t very user friendly.  They do it so you can read the entire magazine as it appears in print.  If you want to read the Grylls article, you can just click on his name on the cover.  It will take you directly there. Here some of the quotes I just loved:
What does [faith] mean?  It’s about being strengthened.  It’s about having a backbone run through you from the Person who made you.  It’s about being able to climb the biggest mountains in the world with the Person who made them.
I remember having one moment when some really good friends turned their back on me in a really nasty way…And I remember praying a simple prayer up a tree one evening and saying, “God, if you’re like I knew you as a kid, would you be that friend again?” And it was no more complicated than that.
Jesus never said, “I’ve come so you can feel smart and proper and smiley and religious…[Faith] is about finding life and joy and peace, I am not at church a lot because I’m away a lot, so I kind of cling to the simple things, like, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
It’s worth trying to read the whole article.  He talks about the parachuting accident he had when he was a member of the British SAS that left him with a broken back.  He talks about rehab and his quest to become the youngest Briton to climb Mt. Everest.  He also talks about his family and their domicile of choice (a houseboat on the Thames).  I love the section about how his wife came to faith in Christ. It makes sense the guy’s a Christian.  You’d have to have some crazy faith to eat some of the stuff he eats.  But what do I know?  Is it really that much worse than what they serve at 7-eleven?

He's a Christian? I didn't know that.

I'm a subscriber to Relevant Magazine, even though you can read a lot of their stuff online.  Sometimes I feel a little too old for it.  The same way I feel when I go to a rock show at the Norva.  I realize I've become that old guy who stands in the back and just kind of nods his head to the music. Anyway.  Thought you might be interested in this article about Zac Levi, star of the the NBC comedy ChuckClick here to read it.  I don't watch this show regularly but I'm told by a lot friends that I should.  Check out this description of Levi's house:
“Zac’s home is like a fraternity house,” explains Jeremy Boreing, Levi’s business partner, “home church” pastor and close friend. “You can’t walk in without meeting someone you don’t know. Two of the bedrooms are always used by someone who needs a place to stay while they’re struggling financially. Saturdays are open for barbecues and Sundays are for home church.”
Sounds like someone is living out their faith.  The article goes on to describe the church that gathers in Levi's house and how it provides a helpful anchor as he seeks to live as a Christian in Hollywood.  I hope you're taking the Good News about Jesus wherever you're going today.

New Sunday School Class

Just wanted to give a slightly overdue plug for Keith Cuthrell's Sunday School class, currently running in the auditorium at 9:30 am.  If you're the kind who likes to be passive, this class isn't for you.  Every week, Keith has challenged us to reflect on some aspect of our life in Christ.  What I mean by that is he has given us a thought-provoking question and asked us to write the answer as it applies to our lives. Don't fear.  Whatever you write, you don't have to share with anyone else.  It's strictly a chance for you to do more than just sit and listen to someone else.  I'm getting a lot of positive feed back about it. If you're not coming to our Sunday morning classes, it's worth the effort required to make it there by 9:30 on Sunday morning.  Between Len Driskell's great class on Leviticus during the first quarter of 2010, Keith's class now and the other classes we have planned for the year, there are great opportunities to learn about God and ourselves. See you Sunday.

Pray for You

Last Sunday I preached on Jesus' command that his followers love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.  I talked about how difficult and "unnatural" an act it is to love our enemies rather than seek revenge.  Immediately following worship Andrea Bolton told me about this video.  Since then, Sharon Tomey mentioned it as well.  You would have seen it on Sunday if I'd known about it beforehand. I'll just let you watch the video and meditate on it.  It really makes my point quite nicely. Great, now when someone tells me they're praying for me I'm just going to be paranoid.

People Get Ready

12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing…(Matthew 11) Sometimes American pop culture is able to transcend itself.  Last night’s episode of American Idol is an excellent example.  The evening’s theme was “Inspirational Songs.”  Crystal Bowersox, held by most to be the frontrunner for season 9, put down her guitar and served up this cover of “People Get Ready.”  More after the jump: I never stopped to listen to this song or consider how it will preach.  Had Jesus preached in a modern setting, it wouldn’t have been surprising to hear him use this train metaphor for the Kingdom of God.  Check out some of the lyrics:
People get ready, there's a train a comin' You don't need no baggage, you just get on board All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin' Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
How many of us are still struggling to understand that last sentence?  Still trying to buy a ticket, and all we have to do is jump on with a thankful heart. But be warned.  This message does have a bit of a sharp edge:
There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner For there's no hiding place against the Kingdom's throne
I think the key word here is hopeless.  Hopeless, not because God refuses to help, but hopeless because we refuse to be comforted.  That’s what’s behind Jesus’ invitation: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” It’s also behind his exasperation: 37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing (Matthew 23).” Today, let’s be willing.  Let’s stop searching our pockets for a ticket we can’t buy anyway and just jump on… I would be remiss if I didn’t throw in a link to Curtis Mayfield singing this one, too.  After all, it was his song first. A more qualified historian could speak to this song’s importance to the Civil Rights Movement.  Since Mayfield, dozens of artists have done their own versions. (I’ll spare you the Bob Dylan cover.  You’re welcome.)

Julia Child and Celebration of Discipline

A couple of weeks ago, when Rachel and I were hunkered down in a foot of snow in Charlottesville, reveling in our weekend of solitude, one of the movies we watched was Julie and Julia.  It’s adapted from two books--Julia Child’s autobiographical My Life in France and Julie Powell’s memoir of her daily attempt to cook a different recipe from Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Child is played by Meryl Streep.  It’s probably cliché to love Meryl Streep, but I do anyway.  She’s just as amazing in this as she is in everything else.  I love what AO Scott says about her in his review of the film: "By now this actress has exhausted every superlative that exists and to suggest that she has outdone herself is only to say that she’s done it again.” Streep captures Child’s lust for life so well.  In one scene, she springs out of bed early in the morning [I can’t recall, but I don’t think an alarm even goes off] so she can set about doing what she loves—cooking great food. I have since wondered, “When is the last time I sprang out of bed in the morning?”  And why don’t I?  In the interest of keeping it short, I’ve decided that it has a lot to do with how I feel about what I have to do.  Did you get that?  What I have to do.  When Julia Child jumps out of bed, it’s because she’s found something that she gets to do.  Isn’t it easier to get more excited about a privilege than an obligation?  And so I’ve noticed lately that it helps to remember what a privilege it is to care for my kids and get them to school and come to work at our church.  I’m still not popping out of bed, but my attitude is a little better. I think the same thing happens with meditation.  That’s the spiritual discipline we’ll be talking about on Wednesday night as we begin talking about Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.  The most common reaction I get from people who try meditating on scripture or on their relationship with God is, “This is hard work.”  Yup.  It’s not easy for a lot of reasons.  We’re going to talk about that on Wednesday night.  But one reason is because it’s often more of an obligation than a privilege.  It’s hard to meditate on God’s presence when it’s something I do out of obligation and there’s something else I would like to be doing.  Or, more importantly, there’s something else I feel like I should be doing. It’s the difference between presenting a report to God and resting in the presence of God.  It’s the difference between making myself get out of bed in the morning and falling into bed at the end of the day.  Which sounds more appealing to you? Anyway.  There’s a lot more to be said about meditation, and we’ll be talking about it tomorrow night.  But more than just talking about it, I’ll be encouraging you to practice it--maybe not during class, but sometime during the week.  If you come to class and listen to me talk about the spiritual disciplines, you’ll get something out of it.  But not nearly as much as if you actually practice them yourself.  And I know I’ll learn a lot more than I would just hearing the sound of my own voice. In the meantime, I hope you’ll stop running around and take a moment to practice being in the presence of God. “The Light of God surrounds me.  The Love of God enfolds me.  The Power of God protects me.  The Wisdom of God guides and directs me.  Wherever I go, God is.” 1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. --Psalm 139

The "Talk"

I know, I know.  It’s been a long time.  It usually takes something particularly interesting to draw me back in. This time it was because I wanted to direct you to this recent article on Time’s website about having “the talk” with our kids.  One of the things I appreciate about the article is that it actually encourages having multiple “talks” rather than just one, each one being age/situation appropriate. I also wonder about having “the talk” in Christian households.  How is it different? How can we speak about sex with our children in a way that is open and honest and reflective of our faith? Anybody out there who has more experience than I do, feel free to jump in.  Both of our boys have shown some curiosity about "where babies come from," but were satisfied with the most cursory of answers.  This article makes me think we will be dealing with this sooner rather than later.  What about you?

I am Second

I believe this weekend marks the 104th installment of the Red River Shootout.  (I refuse to call it the Red River Rivalry, just because AT&T is sponsoring it.)  For many of you that means nothing.  That’s because: A) You don’t watch college football.  B) You’re not from Texas or Oklahoma. The Red River Shootout is the annual football game between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma University Sooners.  It’s almost always a huge game, because one or both teams are usually in the National Championship picture.  The game takes place every year at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas during the Texas State Fair.  If you’re a college football fan, this game is one that should make your bucket list. This year the starting quarterbacks are Colt McCoy for the Longhorns and Sam Bradford for the Sooners.  Both have been talked about as HeismanTrophy contenders (though Bradford’s chances have been diminished some by an early season shoulder injury.)  Both really want to win this game.  Both must be incredibly competitive to play a sport on this level. But there is one thing they can agree on.  Check out the video below.  It was posted on Facebook by the Christian Chronicle.  When you’re done watching the video, you can go read an interview with Colt McCoy at the Chronicle website.  He attends a Church of Christ in Austin.

The Biggest Loser

Rachel finally had a chance to watch this week’s episode of The Biggest Loser last night.  I acted like I wasn’t watching it, but I was.  If you are inclined to watch it and you haven’t yet, go do so and then come back, because there are some big-time spoilers ahead. This week was Sean Algaier’s swan song.  He and his partner, Antoine, fell prey to some truly “Survivor”-style game play by one of the other contestants.  It would be easy to vilify her, but I think she’s got real issues.  (At least that’s the way the show’s editing makes it look.)  Some of you will remember that Sean and the rest of the worship group, “Watershed,” performed at NCOC some time ago, so I was rooting for him, and I was sorry to see him leave. But if anyone had to go out like that, I’m glad it was him.  He and Antoine basically sacrificed themselves and asked to be sent home rather than another contestant.  The way it works is the show sends them home, but provides a personal trainer so that they can keep working and then come back for the live finale sometime around the holidays.  S & A argued that they would stand a better chance than this other contestant, because they both had a good support network at home.  It appears that they were right, because they both look great.  If I remember right, Sean’s already lost over 100 lbs. Sean acted like we would hope a Christian would act.  After being thrown under the bus by this other contestant, he and his partner took care of someone else rather than look after their own interests.  And THEN, Sean was able to treat this person who had essentially caused his elimination with decency and compassion. You know me, and you know I’m not one to rail against the biases of “our liberal media.”  But I can’t help but wonder if anyone will comment on the fact that a self-confessed Christian managed to go on a “reality” show and actually behave like a follower of Jesus.   We sure hear about it when they’re jerks.  And, unfortunately, they sometimes are. But no matter.  It was nice to see someone go on the Biggest Loser and act like “The Biggest Loser.”

A Parent, Not a Buddy

Been a little while.  I just wanted to direct your attention to Mike Cope's recent entry about being brave enough to be a parent who sets boundaries for their kids rather than trying to please them all the time.  Click here to read it. One of the readers calls it:
...true encouragement, the actual pouring of encouragement into the heart of another at the point of need.
Yes it is.  Hope to see as many of you as possible for dinner & Bible study tonight.

God's Chisel

I had a lot of people ask about the video I showed on Sunday.  There are at least two places you can find it.  One is at  You’ll find tons of great videos there, browse to your heart’s content.  But be warned, they won’t be new to you if I show them on Sunday.  No worries, though.  I watch these videos over and over and don’t get tired of them. The other place you can find them is, formerly  The same caveats apply. For the record, whenever I show one on Sunday morning I purchase it, if at all possible.  You know, because of that whole “Do Not Steal” thing. Enjoy the videos. And let me ask you something: "Who do you say Jesus is?" And what does it mean for what your doing right now?

Mad Men (and women)

My new favorite show is Mad Men.  It also gets my award for favorite opening sequence, but more on that in a minute.  Set in the world of an early sixties Madison Avenue ad agency, the show follows the lives of Sterling & Cooper’s various employees. The central characters are Don Draper, a junior partner in the agency, and his wife Betsy.  Don has a lot of secrets.  Raised somewhere in the Depression era Midwest by an abusive father and a mean stepmother, his real name is Dick.  He has stolen the identity of his Lieutenant, Don Draper, after the latter was killed in Korea.  Now “Don” is living multiple lives.  He has a wife and two kids, but he is a notorious philanderer.  Meanwhile, Betsy is suffering from depression or anxiety (I can’t tell for sure) and can only talk about it to her therapist. Then there is Peggy Olson, the young woman who started as a secretary, but who has worked her way into the world of copywriting.  Peggy has had a child out of wedlock that no one (except perhaps Don) knows about.  The boy is being raised as her nephew. Given just this description, the show sounds like a soap opera, and it sort of is, but it’s a very intelligent one.  The characters couldn’t be more real.  Each one is complex and flawed—capable of both kindness and cruelty.  And the dialogue is wonderful. The show makes good use of the era in which it is set.  Taking place in the sixties, it has its feet in two different worlds.  It holds on to the stiff propriety of the early 20th century.  The characters work hard to keep up appearances.  It is still a world where white men are in charge, at least on the face of it.  Everyone smokes everywhere: at work, at the breakfast table, in the office, on planes, etc.  And everyone drinks excessively.  But we can see that the façade is wearing thin, and the modern era is approaching. The prosperity and propriety of the fifties are about to give way to the chaos and upheaval of the sixties.  This world that everyone has constructed for themselves is not going to hold together.  The serenity of everyone’s outward demeanor cannot be maintained.  Their inner lives are too tumultuous. Nothing represents this dynamic as well as the credits.  (You can watch them by clicking here.)  A man appears to have “arrived,” and then the ground gives way beneath him.  He falls past all these images--illusions of happiness and perfection created by the advertising industry.  Then, just when his doom seems inevitable, he lands in an oversized chair, confidently smoking a cigarette and giving no indication of the turmoil that he is experiencing.  It’s all about appearances—both in advertising and in real life. So what does all this have to do with church stuff?  I’ll let you think about it a little bit.  And then I’ll come back and give you my two cents a little later.  Here’s a hint though.  There’s a brilliant little exchange between two of the characters that takes place.  A young account executive named Peter is talking to Peggy.  He’s bemoaning how dysfunctional his family is.  When Peggy admits that she doesn’t understand what he’s talking about and suggests that he should just go home, Peter makes this very self-centered (and false) observation.  Peggy’s response could not be more insightful:
Peter: Everything’s so easy for you. Peggy: It’s not easy for anyone, Pete.
And that right there is a message that will preach.  But it will have to preach later, because I’m done for the afternoon.

A Survey and a Warning

Informal Survey:  I grew up hearing the aphorism, “You can’t get blood from a turnip.”  Anyone else familiar with this?  I did a Google search on it and was reminded that it can also be said, “You can’t get blood from a stone.”  I couldn’t find much on the origins of this strange (and somewhat morbid) turn of phrase.  I mean, I should certainly hope you can’t get blood from a turnip.  Though it would make for an adventurous salad. Anyhow, sometimes the act of writing a sermon is like trying to get blood from a turnip.  It’s arduous and anxiety inducing.  These are the times where the words of scripture just lie there, comatose—times when, even if I have some idea of what I want to say, I have no earthly idea how I’m going to get there.  These are the times when Sunday morning looms menacingly on the horizon, like a tidal wave. Then there are the weeks where the turnip does bleed. The weeks where I’m the George Peppard of preaching.  I sit back and think to myself, “I love it when a sermon comes together.”  On those weeks the sermons just write themselves. For the record, the vast majority are somewhere in the middle—equal parts grace and exertion.  Also for the record, I’m learning not to get too excited either way.  The euphoria and the despair are both pretty good indicators that my ego is behind the wheel again. All this to say that this Sunday’s sermon on Mark 6:30-44 has been coming along pretty effortlessly, and I’m looking forward to sharing what I’m learning with you.  I hope you’ll take a moment and dwell on the passage on your own between now and then. Also, I wanted to give a warning.  I’m always getting in trouble with certain people in our church (who shall go unnamed) for showing tear-jerker videos without any advanced notice.  Consider yourself warned.  Actually, the one I’ve got for Sunday isn’t the worst I’ve shown.  It’s probably a 6 or 7 on the “Steel Magnolias” scale.  But it might have some of you reaching for the tissues. So now you know.  But if I find out that any of you are ducking my sermons for this reason, I’ll go back to ambushing you all ninja style with the weepy videos.


[Ed. note] Someone suggested that I put the narrative part of Sunday’s message on the blog, so here it is.  Most of you know that I occasionally like to take a story from scripture and fill in the gaps.  It helps me slow down and pay attention.  It forces me to be aware of what’s happening.  Plus it allows me to see it from the point of view of one of the people within the story. Whenever I read these on Sunday mornings, I give a disclaimer: I am aware that this is not the Gospel Truth.  If there’s something about the story that rings false, it may very well be false.  The only parts I know to be true are the quotes from scripture themselves.  All the rest is fair game. If you want to read the biblical account of this story, it’s in Mark 4:35-41.  Here’s my version.  I’d love some feedback on it…


I’ve been told that you people go to the sea for your own pleasure.  That you take your leisure at the water’s edge.  That you peel the clothes off your children and coat them in oil and send them running into the waves.  I hear that you purchase boats for no other reason than to ride to and fro on the water.  You do not fish with them.  (And if you do, you throw the fish back?!)  You do not carry goods to foreign lands.  You simply spend a day riding about on the waves.  And I hear that you sometimes tether people to your boats using a long rope and drag them along behind you on smaller boats? My friends and I did not see it this way.  The Sea of Galilee was our livelihood.  It literally put food on our table, it was the life we lived before we met Jesus.  It was the life we left in order to follow him.  It was the life to which we returned when we thought that we had lost him.  But the only pleasure we ever received from the waters was a full net.  And we were just as likely to receive something else altogether for our troubles.  If a day of hard labor pulling in fish was our reward, there were days when the sea gave us nothing but the sun.  Sun that punished us from above and glared at us from below as it reflected back from the glassy water.  But everyone knew that this was not the worst that the sea could give. As children we were taught that the sea opposed the Lord.  We were taught that, at the creation of the world, he had to beat it back in order to give his children a firm place to stand.  We were menacingly reminded that in Noah’s day, he used the sea to punish our wickedness.  And every time we heard the story of our escape from Egypt we experienced the terrifying prospect of being caught between the sea and the armies of Pharaoh.  Both opposed us.  We escaped them both only with God’s help. We were taught that the sea is the home of the monster that swallowed Jonah.  It is a place of death and of evil.  Demons reside there, too.  A man is pulled down into the depths never to return.  Only the Almighty has power over the sea.  The rest of us are at its mercy, able only to take whatever it gives whether good or evil. So at the end of that long day, when Jesus announced that we were to make for the other side of the Sea of Galilee, I couldn’t help but exchange nervous glances with James and John.  We had thought that the boat was merely a device to keep the crowds at bay so Jesus could teach.  We had no idea that travel was on his mind.  And travel to Gentile lands at that.  Lands on the “other side” of the lake, full of unclean people and unclean animals.  I had noticed how, at different times during the day, the sons of Zebedee had pulled their attention away from the work in order to scan the horizon.  I know they saw the line of clouds in the distance.  I know they heard thunder on the other side of the mountains that overlooked the Galilee. But our impromptu trip was clearly not up for debate, because, as soon as Jesus announced our destination he grabbed a cushion from the nearest rower’s seat, stumbled to the rear of the boat, and collapsed in an exhausted heap.  He would not stir until hours later when Peter finally decided to take matters into his own hands. Our progress at first was so good that we began to think we might have been unduly alarmed.  Even James and John began to relax as we rowed our way through the warm, still night.  But even people like us, who have spent their lives on the sea, can forget how quickly the storms come rolling over the mountains.  And in moments the reflection of the stars disappeared from the water, chopped to bits by the waves and obscured by the sudden arrival of the storm clouds.  The rain did not present itself with care.  It rushed upon us suddenly.  Our only warning was a wave that sent the boat listing dangerously to one side, and then the downpour was upon us. We pulled in the sail to keep it from being shredded and to keep the mast from being splintered and, taking to the oars, we began to fight against the water.  I was at the stern of the boat, just in front of Jesus, an unmoving, soaked pile of clothes and skin and bones.  We turned her around to face into the oncoming waves, but that gave little comfort.  Between the wind and the rain I could only see the front of the boat when lightning struck.  The men at the bow would rise precipitously until they were directly above me, and then they would come crashing down below as the boat crested each wave.  Every time the front of the boat was catapulted upwards I thought to myself, this will be the time that it doesn’t stop.  It will continue to go up and up pass the point of no return and we will be tossed into the sea.  I wondered if Jesus would wake up even then, or would the last sight I ever saw be of him, curled into a ball and sinking into the blackness. I’ve noticed that, in everyone’s stories about Jesus and us, his disciples, Peter doesn’t always come out looking so good.  It’s not his fault really.  He’s usually just the one who says what we’re all thinking.  The decisiveness that will someday make him a leader also makes him look occasionally foolish.  But in this case, when he finally got up and lurched his way past me and stood over Jesus, he was only doing what we all lacked the courage to do. Another thing I’ve noticed is that Matthew and Luke try to clean it up a little bit when they tell this story.  The way they tell it, you would think that Peter knelt piously before Jesus with his head down and his hands in the air and said, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"  But Mark is closer to the truth when he tells the story.  Peter didn’t kneel submissively.  He began to shake Jesus, as violently as he could.  And I could hear him roaring above the sound of the waves, "Teacher, what is wrong with you! Don't you care if we drown?" Even in this dire situation, Peter realized he had gone too far.  He pulled his hands off of Jesus and dropped onto the seat beside me.  Nobody was rowing anymore.  Every eye was on Jesus.  We waited to see what he would do.  I don’t know what anybody expected him to do about it, but I can say that no one ever dreamed that he would do what he did.  He swung his legs down, rubbed his eyes, stood up and yelled above the tumult, “Quiet! Be still!”  Jesus rebuked the wind like he rebuked a demon.  He issued orders to the sea.  “Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” As quickly as it had come, the storm disappeared.  In the moonlight reflected off of the smooth surface of the water, I could see my utter amazement staring back at me on the faces of the others.  And then we were aware of Jesus’ eyes on us.  No one knew what he would do now, but everyone waited.  I will never forget it.  After a long silence, Jesus shook his head, smiled a weary smile, and said "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"  And with that, he reached down for his lost cushion, stepped back to the stern of the boat, where he collapsed. Pulling his cloak over his shoulder, he turned away from us and fell asleep in seconds, leaving us there gazing on in amazement. For a while no one spoke.  There was only the sound of our ragged breathing, the dripping of our clothes and the gentle creak of the boat as it lilted about on the sea.  And once again, we were all afraid.  Not because of the waves, but because of what we had just seen.  And suddenly, I was a boy again sitting in the synagogue, watching one of the elders rise from his seat and pull the scroll from its place.  Watching him stand before the congregation, watching him unroll it and begin to read: 1 Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. 2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent 3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. 4 He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. 5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight… Once again it was Peter who broke the silence.  Once again, it was Peter who said what we were all thinking.  Nudging past me and walking back to his place on the boat he sat down, looked at us all and said, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"  And with that, he set about rowing us to the other side, just like Jesus had said.

God vs. Science?

I was raised in an "either/or" world.  And while that may sometimes be helpful, it often is not.  I’ve found that I’m often better served taking a "both/and" approach.  That is certainly the case when it comes to science and faith. Seems like most of the current dialogue shouting match sees the whole thing as Science vs. Faith.  That’s because of the attitudes of people on both sides of the issue.  There’s a take no prisoners kind of spirit that sees the whole thing as a battlefield. But what if, instead of pitting one against the other, we could let each have its own domain—domains that occasionally overlap?  This week Mike Cope linked to an Op-Ed piece in USA Today that was written by two men who are Scientists and Christians.  It’s a wonderful and inspiring read.  I can’t help but quote from the opening paragraph:
We’re scientists and Christians. Our message to the faithful: Fear not.
A good reminder, since fear seems to be what drives most discussions fracases today over all sorts of topics: religion, politics, etc.  You can find the Op-Ed by clicking here. Have a good weekend.  How about resting some with your families?

Heresy in the Home

And from my 3 year old son, nonetheless. The other day I was straightening up the bathroom when he came in and said, "Dad, did you know that there are TWO Gods?!" "Really?" I said.  (As I began a surreptitious search for something with which to stone my wicked, heretical son in accordance with Leviticus.  Can you stone someone with a bottle of Johnson & Johnson's Lavender Baby wash?  That would be ironic considering its claim to be "No tears.") "Yeah," he said, "There's a Big one in the sky..." (He said this with his hands spread wide apart and standing on tip toes.  Then he made himself really small and brought his thumb and index finger close together)"...And there's a little one in my heart." Touché.  It appears someone has been paying attention at church and then filling in the gaps for himself.  That makes him a theologian.

Free Backpacks

H/t to Ray Stiff for forwarding this.  You or someone you know may be eligible for free school supplies and backpacks.   Follow the link below to register:
Military families of E-1 through E-6  ONLY  are encouraged to sign up for free backpacks and back-to-school supplies which will be distributed before school begins, this year.  Registration is limited to the amount of backpacks and supplies donated and the registration is open from now until all slots are filled.  Families with the greatest need have priority. Military ID cards showing rank of E-1 through E-6 must be presented by families at their pick up. This program has been made possible through kind donations from all branches of the military, as well as corporate and private donors throughout the Hampton Roads area.  Please go to: to sign up for backpacks.

A Very Biblical Wedding

I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk. [ Friends ] Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers. (Song of Songs 5:1) Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7) You’ve got to see this.  A friend from Grad School posted this to her Facebook account.  As with the Sound of Music video, I defy you not to smile.  I defy you to resist the urge to move.  It’s like a Bollywood movie.  What a great way to start a wedding.  Check out my thoughts after the jump. Let me say a couple of things.  First, if you want a picture of a Biblical wedding, there you go.  The wedding feast was a party.  The betrothal (engagement) was long. So when the long-awaited day finally arrived, the groom and his friends would go as a group to the house of the bride and fetch her and her friends. Then they would go as one raucous procession to the place of the feast.  Then the marriage would be consummated and a feast lasting several days would follow.  There would be music and dancing and wine.  Weddings were not solemn occasions.  They were blowouts. That’s why Jesus uses the image of a wedding when he’s asked why his disciples do not fast.  He basically says, “Why should they fast?  The groom (Jesus) is here; it’s time to party (Mark 2:18-20)!” Second, I wonder if we would do well to make more room for rejoicing in our church services.  In one sense, we are still waiting for the groom to return.  In another sense, the promise has been made.  It’s just a matter of time.  I’m a pretty serious guy, so I don’t always go to the rejoicing stuff very naturally.  But how would our times together benefit if we could? Just a thought for you this Friday.  Keep reading the Good News according to Mark.  Can’t wait to see you all on Sunday morning.