Monday, December 19, 2005

All I Want For Christmas – Part 3

It is less than one week before Christmas is upon us. If you are thoughtful, you have spent hours contemplating the perfect gifts for everyone in your life. If you are like me, you just realized that personally autographed headshots of yourself do not make good gifts. They apparently come across as pompous, or so my wife tells me.

This sudden realization has left me scrambling for gift ideas. Music is always popular and a great last minute gift purchase. There are so many choices. If you’re going for kitsch value, you could give a CD by either Big Daddy Weave or Barlow Girl, the two bands currently battling for the title of “Dumbest Name For A Christian Band Since 2nd Chapter of Acts.”

David Phelps
has a new CD, Life Is A Church.



Do you think this album cover is trying to send the subtle message that David Phelps is the foundation of the church? I mean, he is holding the church in his hands. Isn’t that the job of the Holy Spirit, not David Phelps? Talk about pretension. (Note to David Phelps fans that randomly find this site: don’t be like the moron Chris Rice fans. Learn to take a joke.)

Of course, if you want real music to give to friends and family, there is always the new EP from Astronaut Pushers. This is the new project from Sam Ashworth, John Davis of Superdrag, Lindsay Jamieson (played with Ben Folds among others), and Matt Slocum. Many of you will remember Slocum from his first band, Sixpence None the Richer, one of my all-time favorites. If you only know Sixpence from their song “Kiss Me,” I feel very sad for you. (All you Sixpence fans who are still morning the band’s breakup can follow the professional lives of the various members over at Sad But True.)

If none of these musical milestones seem to right, you can always go with Left Behind Gym Shorts.

Monday, December 5, 2005

All I Want For Christmas – Part 2

For many people, the holiday season is a time to reflect on how lonely they are. This is especially true for Christians. While it is never stated explicitly in any of the church creeds, it is generally understood among Christians that being unmarried makes you less human.

“What about Jesus, or the Apostle Paul, they were never married?” you counter. “Does that make them less human?" Why, yes it does. Being a single Christian is like being a retarded kitten. You’re cute, and people generally dote on you out of pity. But for your own good, they eventually tie you in a burlap sack and throw you in a river. It’s better to be dead than to be a retarded kitten (or 30 and single).

I’m being facetious, or course, but that is how the church treats single people. We convince them that being 26 and single means you will never find someone. We convince them that any pathetic loser who attends church is better than nothing. And we wonder why Christian divorce rates are not that different than divorce rates for those outside the church.

Never fear, a new book has arrived to help you cure your singleness disease.



Marriable: Taking the Desperate Out of Dating is an attempt to help single people get out of their own way and land that perfect mate. I doubt this book will help you find “Mr./Miss Right”, but it might help you find “Mr./Miss Good Enough So That You Can Get Married And Have Your Mom Stop Insinuating That You’re Gay.”

Friday, December 2, 2005

All I Want For Christmas

Christmas shopping is always difficult for me. I obsess about getting the perfect gift for the people in my life. This year is no different, so I was relieved when I opened the mail the other day and found the Christmas catalogue from my old employer, the Christian bookstore.

This brochure was filled with gift ideas. Not wanting to keep these treasures to myself, I have decided to highlight different items in the days leading up to Christmas.

We will begin where all good Protestants begin – with the Bible. Christians have spent millions of dollars trying to figure out the best way to package the Bible so people will want to study it. (Apparently, that whole “personal God, death on a cross, rising from the dead, eternal life” story just wasn’t flashy enough).

One of the more popular attempts at this is the One Year Bible. A take off of this concept are The One Year Mini For Women and The One Year Mini For Men. Here are some pictures:





I find these covers fascinating. The woman looks like she is overcome with joy while the man looks like he is being crushed by guilt. Maybe the man has realized that for generations men have misinterpreted the Bible in an effort to marginalize everyone from ethnic minorities to women, and he is dealing with this new awareness. And maybe the woman has also realized this, and she is rejoicing in her newfound freedom.

It’s just a thought.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What Number Did I Call?

Apparently, the phone number for our church office is one number away from that of a pregnancy clinic at a nearby hospital. At least 2-3 times a month I get calls from women concerned about their health.

A woman just called me to check on the results of her urine test. We didn't cover that in Systematic Theology. I feel grossly unprepared for ministry.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The FCC Won't Let Me Be

We have yet another example of Christians missing the point.

A high school radio station, WAVM (FM 91.7) in Maynard, Mass., faces the real possibility of being shut down because a Christian broadcasting company is trying to muscle in on the school’s frequency. Read the complete story here (requires free registration to read the second page of the story).

Basically, the high school station wanted to increase their wattage from 10 watts to 250 watts. According to the eSchool News article I linked, “According to FCC rules, when a radio station files a petition to make a ‘major change,’ it opens the rights to its frequency to be challenged.”

The FCC granted the frequency to Living Proof Broadcasting, a Christian company. Living proof muscled out a high school radio station. In their defense, they have done nothing illegal. They played by the rules. But even so, they are trying to put an educational radio station out of business. Is that really the kind of example a Christian company should be setting?

I’m not furious at Living Proof. (Don’t get me wrong. I am mad, and I will be sending letters both to Living Proof as well as to the FCC.) But the more I think about it, the more I feel sad for Living Proof.

If I had to guess, I would assume their motivation was simply to get a frequency in Massachusetts so that they could spread the Gospel through their radio station (we’ll save debates about the effectiveness of this for another time). So, if we’re being generous, we could say they were motivated by the Great Commission.

Unfortunately, their actions speak louder than their words. In trying to spread grace, hope and love, they failed to exhibit any of those traits. You can’t really blame them; that’s the example they see every week in church.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

“And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder…”

I grew up obsessed with end times conspiracy theories. My childhood dreams were filled with the Illuminati, the New World Order and other similar things. The Mark of the Beast (666) was one of the biggest concerns I came across. Everybody was afraid of being forced and/or tricked into getting the mark.

Of course, if you could figure out what the Mark of the Beast would actually be, then you would be able to avoid it. All of the conjecture was centered around the idea that you will not be able to buy or sell without the Mark of the Beast (see Revelation 13:16-18). Depending on who you talked to, that could mean a lot of different things. (Just Google “Mark of the Beast” and you’ll see over 7 million pages devoted to it.)

Most people believed that the mark would appear in stages. There would be a gateway Mark of the Beast, something less oppressive that would dull our conscience, making us easier targets for the Antichrist. One of the most common theories was a fingerprint scanner that would automatically deduct money from your checking account.

It will never happen. There is no way Americans would let anyone have their fingerprints.

The unthinkable has become true.

I was at my local grocery store, when I noticed that they had incorporated Pay By TouchTM technology. All I wanted were some yams. I didn’t realize that I would have to pledge allegiance to the Antichrist to get them. I don’t care how good they are. No yam is worth eternal hellfire and damnation.

Begin the countdown. Armageddon is coming.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Kirk Cameron Does It Again

In case you missed it, Left Behind: World at War (the third of the Left Behind movies) premiered over the weekend. In a “shocking” twist, the producers decided to ignore conventional wisdom of opening movies in movie theatres and instead opened the movie in more than 3,200 churches nationwide. Three cheers for Christian separatism!

(For those of you unfamiliar with the world of Left Behind, take a glance over at Slacktivist’s ongoing review of the book as he reads through it.)

There are so many things to comment on. You could mention how yet another mediocre Christian film once again lowers the bar for Christian artists everywhere. You could speculate on whether or not this will increase sales for Left Behind board game.

Instead, think about this: one of President Bush’s most famous pieces of legislation is No Child LEFT BEHIND. Maybe Bush’s educational policy is not about making sure American children keep up with their competitors around the world. Maybe it is about making sure no American children have to endure the tribulation.

If that’s not compassionate conservatism, I don’t know what is.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Quarantining a Generation

My friend Beth sent me an article by Suzanne Hadley entitled "Quaranting A Generation." Hadley spends her days as an editor for the children’s magazines Clubhouse and Clubhouse, Jr., but for this article she decides to change her target audience a bit and address her own young adult generation.

The thrust of the article is that by creating services and even churches devoted exclusively to young adults, we have actually harmed them more than helped them. The conventional argument is that this group has left the church (or never bothered to enter the church) because they feel ignored. In response, churches reached out and created these special services. We even have a whole movement of tragically hip young adult Christians we call the Emerging Church.

Hadley believes that our generation has effectively been cut off from the older generation of Christians, which is to our detriment. As she looks at the New Testament church, she sees a group that is integrated in all areas – even age. She feels that age integration is essential for our generation to mature in a healthy way.

I agree that age segregation is a growing problem in the church. My church is blessed to have a wide range of age groups. I have actually seen first hand the impact being around mature, older Christians has had on my life.

But age segregation still happens. My wife and I are beginning a new small group. Everybody in it is under 30. I didn’t try for that to happen; it just kind of did.

This is an issue I’ve wrestled with before, and I always end up with some of the same questions:

  • Should the church “legislate” age integration or should it let things happen organically, even if that means segregation?
  • Are these new church services, congregations, etc. really attracting unchurched people, or are they just gathering spaces for young adults who think they’re edgy and who want an excuse to be mad at the mainstream church?
  • Will young adults leave the church or never enter the church if we do not have church services designed specifically for them?
  • Or is it more important to simply be authentic, whatever that looks like for each church?

Monday, October 3, 2005

Pretentious Seminarian Watch

Classes at the seminary have only been meeting for one week. Already, I have found a great example of what I will term "Pretentious Seminarianism." Basically, it's when a seminary student places way too much importance on themselves or their "original thoughts" about theology.

Our first example this year is a guy who called himself "A Postmodern Contemplative." Can you really assign yourself a title like that? I'm sure he's contemplating something, but judging by the look of him, he's spending more time contemplating what kind of product to put in his hair instead of God’s role in the universe. He seems like a nice enough guy, he just takes himself way too seriously.

I should start assigning myself labels. Maybe I can become "A Premodern Mystic." That should get people's attention. I'll start praying for the stigmata immediately.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How May I Serve You?

I swear, regardless of denominational affiliation or the sizes of the congregation, Christians are the laziest people in the world. Part of my job at the church is recruiting volunteers. It’s amazing how quickly people become too busy to help you. Suddenly, something as simple as passing the offering plate becomes some all-consuming activity that does not allow them to help you out.

What I'm really bothered by are the people who are willing to come to a brainstorming session for a ministry, but they are unwilling to do the work to implement the ideas. Everyone thinks they are God’s gift to the church; they have all the answers to what we’re doing wrong, but they are unwilling to act on it.

I’m just venting. I don’t have it as bad as some people I know. I do have a handful of people who have been with the church from nearly the beginning who will do anything I need. They are quiet servants who are more than happy to go without recognition, and being around them is energizing.

It’s those lazy ones that just get to me. My friend Jim created a theory about church plants. You have the first wave of people who are passionate about the vision and will do anything that needs done. (Part of that is out of necessity because there are not a lot of people to do the work). The second wave are people who come and see the first wave doing everything and assume it is all getting done. (Many of these people are who I’m talking about. It’s not that they are unaware of ways they can help serve, it is more that they are unwilling to help serve.) Jim’s theory maintains that eventually there will be a third wave of people who will want to get involved.

[In the name of full disclosure, one thing I can definitely improve on is my ability to recognize potential leaders and empower them to lead in an area they are passionate about. I’m working on that.]

Is the problem all with me and my approach? (An answer I am fully prepared to accept as true.) Or is this unwillingness to serve a symptom of a bigger problem in Christianity? Have we become a people who are only content when things are being fed to us like we’re children?

In his book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Leslie Newbigin says “The priestly people needs a ministering priesthood to sustain and nourish it. Men and women are not ordained to this ministerial priesthood in order to take priesthood away from the people but in order to nourish and sustain the priesthood of the people. Just as we observe one day of the week as ‘the Lord’s Day,’ not in order that the other six days may be left to the devil but in order that they may all belong to the Lord; so we set apart a man or woman to a ministerial priesthood not in order to take away the priesthood of the whole body but to enable it.”

I believe that is true, but there are times that I wonder if too many Christians like the idea of a strong priesthood (or pastors) because they see it as an excuse for inaction. I don’t know how to change that. Maybe I don’t have to. Maybe my Transformational Leadership class this quarter will show me that I have been going about this the wrong way. Maybe I will finally learn how to develop the leaders for the future instead of simply finding the workers for the present. Maybe I will learn that every Christian desperately wants to be an active part of the mission of the church, they just need to be asked in the right way.

Maybe.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Killing In The Name Of

Just when you think Christians might be gaining a little respect in the world, Pat Robertson opens his mouth. Apparently, he feels it is time for the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in a preemptive strike. Robertson views Chavez as a “terrific danger.”

My favorite argument is that assassinating Chavez would save us money, because it would avoid a war. I love it that Robertson believes the sixth commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” is rendered null and void by his own view that “Thou shalt always think with thy bank account.” When did economics become a higher motivation than human life?

I know Robertson’s insane. He’ll retire to Pensacola with Jerry Falwell and James Dobson where they’ll plot ways to fire bomb San Francisco in an attempt to rid the earth of gay people. No one takes him seriously.

Or do they? I suppose that’s my issue. Robertson is so far off the deep end that only crazy people within Christianity believe him. (By crazy people, I mean anyone who believes Left Behind is a prophetic vision of how the world will end.) But he makes good television.

Why would the news stations have a theologian giving a thoughtful, intelligent Christian critique of the world when they could have Pat Robertson come on and threaten people? With Robertson you have a man with just enough sanity left to seem legitimate, but with enough dementia to make you think “I bet he spends his weekends dancing around a fire in a loincloth eating dead rats he caught with his bare hands.”

The man is a ratings booster. And every time he is allowed to be the token Christian spokesperson, the world believes a little more that all Christians are this insane. No one takes the time to explore whether or not his views actually line up with biblical teaching.

Maybe I should just give up on the Evangelical world and become a Catholic. At least they know how to party.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

It's All In My Mind

It seems like the Evangelical Christian world is all about finding the next big thing. We never assume that we have it figured out. If it was good enough for the people before us, it must be wrong.

Some friends and I were discussing this and decided we needed to come up with the next big movement in Evangelical Christianity. The idea we came up with is so revolutionary, so forward thinking, that it makes the Emergent church look like a bunch of regressive hacks.

We are going to push for a post-communal understanding of church. Simply put, it is a (re)turn to hyper-individualism. The mega churches of our day are too concerned with entertaining large quantities of people all at once. Being around that many people is a distraction. We need to return to heart of Christianity, because it’s all about me and Jesus.

Everybody wants to have “conversations” these days where they talk about the problems of the church. Nothing makes me laugh more than a bunch of middle-aged, white men drinking half-caff skinny lattes at Starbucks while they discuss the plight of the third world. If our conversations never lead to action, let’s drop the fa├žade.

With a post-communal understanding of Christianity, we finally have a mechanism for taking into account the human condition as it relates to our spirituality. The basic point is this:

I don’t care about you.

It seems harsh, but we all know it’s true. My Christianity is about securing my own happiness – the “good life” if you will. Instead of wasting my time acting like I care about your life, I should be using my energy to grow closer to God. In the end, it is my personal relationship with Christ that really matters. Everything else is just a roadblock to the intimate relationship with him I really desire.

My friends and I are working on some paraphernalia that will help enhance this individualistic growth. Our first product will be the Heavenly Eyes Multimedia Helmet. They are basically recycled Blue Blockers glued to a bike helmet with built-in video screens and an .mp3 player. Now you can custom create the multimedia experience that best enhances your relationship with Jesus. Everything from PowerPoint slides set to rare U2 tracks to videos of dancing rabbits doing the Macarena – whatever it is that brings you closer to God, these glasses provide it.

(Note: Our lawyers would like us to add that any resemblance to the Oakley Thump™ is in fact coincidental. Our product fills a unique niche in the market and performs tasks that are all together different from those of the Oakley Thump™)

This is just the first push in the impending tidal wave of reform that is the post-communal understanding of church. Before you know it, we’ll have books, DVDs, plush toys – all with the express purpose of helping as many people as possible make that (re)turn to hyper-individualism as they seek to grow closer to God.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

To The Roof Of The Sky

I don’t know anything about construction. I love watching television shows like This Old House, but when it comes to actually doing construction work, I’m more lost than Jerry Falwell at a gay pride event.

So, I was a bit shocked to find myself two stories in the air straddling a couple of trusses in an attempt to put plywood on a new roof. Some friends from church had decided to turn their 1 story house into a 1½-story house. To save money they had decided to do the work themselves, with the help of their church friends.

From the beginning, the project seemed much larger than it had appeared on paper. Panicked, my friends pleaded for additional help. We responded in force. It was a rag tag group of volunteers to be sure. Among the many volunteers, there was a Ph.D. candidate in history, a graphic designer, and a seminary student (that would be me). If you were to look at us as physical specimens, you would not exactly imagine physical labor as something we’d excel at.

(Speaking of physical specimens, I’m still upset that I was forbidden to remove my shirt for fear that my painfully white chest would blind someone. I care about workplace safety as much as the next guy, but it was bloody hot out there.)

What we lacked in experience, we made up for in spunk. It turned into an old-fashioned barn raising (minus the square dance and flirting with your cousin). This is church at its finest – people coming together to help others out.

After one of the longer days, the academic, the designer and myself were hanging out reminiscing about the day’s events. There is a sense of pride you gain from helping to build something, especially when you know the act of building is helping someone else. Not only had we helped build the top of a house, but we had bonded with each other as well. It was empowering to do something like that.

Not only had I helped a friend out, but I had also learned that if I get too jaded by Christian ministry, I will always have a future in roofing.

Friday, June 3, 2005

Patriotic Worship

This past weekend was Memorial Day, a time when we remember those he gave their lives for our country. These celebrations are important. We should remember those who fought for our country, even when they did not necessarily agree with the politics behind the wars.

However, I did find it odd that a local church had a sign in their lawn advertising “Patriotic Worship” for the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. What exactly is patriotic worship? Do we gather round the flag and tell it how much we love it? Do we bow down to larger than life statues of President Bush? “We praise you, O Lord, our President, for giving us life and making us understand that Christianity is best viewed through a political lens.”

This is the problem with American Christianity. Certain groups have decided that Christianity and nationalism must be joined together. Last time I checked, Christianity was never about an individual nation. Of course Crazy Jim Dobson doesn’t believe that (James Dobson’s descent into insanity and mean-spiritedness is a whole other discussion by itself).

I’m not saying people should not be patriotic, although disrespecting the flag by wearing an ugly American flag sweater or painting it on your truck isn’t exactly patriotic. I just wonder if we’ve diluted the Gospel too much by trying to force our political views into it (and yes, I am condemning the liberals like myself as well as the conservatives). We’ve taken a message that is about love, salvation and hope in eternal life and turned it into a weapon to yield political power.

And now we’re singing patriotic worship songs because apparently worshiping God wasn’t cutting edge enough. I just wish Kirk Cameron would come back and rapture us all. Oh wait; is Kirk the one coming back or J.C.? I’ll have to reference my Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Spirit Moved - And I Slept

A little while ago I had agreed to be part of a Grid Blog that discussed how the Holy Spirit was moving in a variety of Christian communities around the world. We were supposed to post on Pentecost (May 15). If you'll glance through my blog, you'll see no mention of this exercise. I wish had some great excuse, but I basically forgot. My apologies to all those other bloggers who actually fulfilled their word. You can check out the Grid Blog at The Corner.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

We Didn't Start The Fire

I knew it had been a long time since my last post, but I didn’t realize it had been almost 2 months. Between work, school and shopping for my first house, I lost track of time. To my loyal fan (that would be you, Jim) I apologize.

Life has been rather stressful recently, and I’ve found myself looking for things to laugh at to relieve the stress. One of my favorite sources of laughter has become the youth group materials that get sent to our church. Record companies and other Christian “ministries” develop these curriculums that integrate whatever they’re selling with a variety of Christian lessons. Sometimes it turns out well; sometimes you just have to wonder what they were thinking.

One of these brochures contained an insert outlining a youth group session aimed at teaching young women the joys of sexual purity. For the warm-up they suggest playing a game called “Burned.” Here is their description [words typed in all-caps appeared that way in the original material]:

“Play BURNED – a form of ‘Musical Chairs.’ Place chairs in a line (or in rows if needed), having one less chair than girls. At one end of the chairs hang red, orange and yellow streamers from the ceiling (about 3-4 feet wide) so they touch the edge of the chair, but still allow someone to sit there. The streamers represent FIRE. For the music, use Out of Eden’s “This is Your Life” CD. Start playing the music. While the music is playing, each girl has to sit in each chair as they move closer to the fire. Anyone left touching the fire when the music stops is BURNED, and they’re out. They take a chair with them and sit to the side, cheering their friends on, encouraging them not to get burned. The last one left wins a white rose.”

I’m all for teaching sexual purity to teenage girls (and boys for that matter), but I have to be a bit disturbed by this game. In the context of the larger lesson, I can only assume this game is meant to imply that if you have premarital sex, you’re going to hell (with the implication that no one will ever love you, especially God).

I know youth ministry is hard. I’m scared to death whenever I help out with our youth group. But I also don’t think we should scare the kids into thinking they’re going to hell if they ever do something that does not fit into our moral/ethical framework.

The Christian life is not about morality motivated by fear. It is about morality motivated by joy that we have become part of something bigger than ourselves. And the best part is that even if we do falter, we have a God who welcomes us home, encourages us to right our wrongs, and loves us even as we are a work in progress.

I’d rather have that than a white rose any day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Blankets

I just finished reading the graphic novel Blankets by Craig Thompson. This is perhaps the best book I have read in a long time. I was captivated from the beginning; I didn’t want to put it down. (My wife didn’t put it down – she read it in one sitting.) You don’t have to believe me. Time Magazine, Publishers Weekly, The New York Times Book Review (may require registration), and a host of others all rave about this book.

Blankets is a story about obsession, both religious and romantic. You cannot deny the impact Thompson’s upbringing in an ultra-conservative church background has on this story. But Thompson is able to look at that past, and at himself, with true honesty. He does not finger point in the ways many of us wish he would, though his portrayal of people in his church will certainly strike a chord with many of you.* Instead Thompson paints a beautiful portrait that captures your attention from the beginning.

Add this book to the top of your summer reading list. It truly is a work of art.


*If you want to read more of Thompson’s thoughts about his background, among other things, check out his great interview with Jason Dodd from Bandoppler.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I'm A Cherry Ghost

Theologians
They don’t know nothing
About my soul
About my soul


Twice in the last week I have been greeted by these words as I’ve driven onto the seminary campus, listening to my new favorite station 89.3 “The Current” (MPR’s new music station). It’s the opening stanza from “Theologians” off Wilco’s most recent CD A Ghost Is Born. I’ve listened to my own copy of the CD many times, but for some reason this song stuck out to me more when I heard on the radio.

The first time I was going to do research on the Atonement. I was specifically researching ideas (John Calvin’s mostly) of Christ’s descent into hell, as mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. Not exactly dinner conversation. The second time I was on my way to my Systematic Theology class.

So, as a young theology student I suppose I should be insulted by the claim I know nothing about Jeff Tweedy’s soul. Theology is after all a serious endeavor. It’s humanity’s attempt to make sense of God and our relationship to him (and ultimately our relationship to others, the world and ourselves).

The problem is that I think Jeff Tweedy is right. Theologians don’t seem to know anything about his soul or anyone else’s for that matter. Academic theology has created this world where questions are asked that don’t really apply to most people’s life. And the theologians seem to like it that way.

Let’s be honest, do most people care about the concept of Christ’s descent into hell? No, they may be curious when they read it in the Apostles’ Creed, but it isn’t going to change their life.

Practical theology isn’t any better. You go to most churches in America, and the sermons are basically sanitized morality lessons. There is nothing inherently wrong or heretical with them; they’re just shallow. And the congregation seems to like it that way.

How do you raise the level of spiritual and theological reflection in American churches, and how do you get theologians to address real issues in ways that meet people where they’re at?

Is it too much to ask for deep thinking theology that impacts my life, my world, my reality?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Roll Over, Play Dead

Do you feel distant from God? Do you often look at your dog and wonder, ‘Boy, he seems so content. I bet his relationship with God is going great. I wish I could be more like him.”

If so, I’ve got a book for you: Dog Psalms: Prayers My Dogs Have Taught Me. If you’re like me, when you look at a dog you see a creature obsessed with humping, eating its own feces and inappropriately licking itself in front of company. Luckily for us, author Dr. Herbert Brokering looks at dogs and sees creatures that can teach us how to have a deeper relationship with God.

Still think dogs are filthy creatures completely unsuitable for use as spiritual metaphors, never fear, Dr. Brokering has a companion book, Cat Psalms: Prayers My Cats Have Taught Me. Read prayers written in the voices of different cats as well as prayers “in which the human spirit speaks of its cat-like nature to God.” (Amazon.com Product Info.)

I know on the surface this all sounds a bit crazy. I would never look at household pets and think of ways to better pray to God. But thankfully we have Dr. Brokering to delve below the surface of sane human reason to bring us a deeper picture of our own spirituality as portrayed by our furry friends.

Before you write him off as another burned-out Timothy Leary follower, remember that Dr. Brokering is the “Leonardo DaVinci of the Prairies.” What does that mean? I don’t really know, but it sounds like someone I can trust.

I can’t wait for the third installment, Gerbil Revelations: Lessons My Gerbils Have Taught Me About the Apocalypse (with a forward by Richard Gere).

Thanks to my friend (and former Christian retail coworker) Beth for the product info.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Popsicle Stick Crosses Will Save The World

A couple in my church, Ben and Alexandra Pierre, recently gave birth to their first son, Philippe. All was well until a few weeks into his life it was discovered he had Hydrocephalus. He basically had too much fluid on the brain. Philippe survived, but any developmental damage will only be discovered as he matures.

After some recuperation time, Philippe and his parents returned to church. During the offertory time, the children were brought downstairs so they could be with their parents during communion. As they entered, each one of them was holding a little popsicle stick cross they had made and personally decorated.

As they walked in, their teacher paraded them over to Philippe where each child handed their cross to Alexandra. Each cross represented the prayers the kids, and the church, had prayed to God on behalf of baby Philippe. You could see the emotion washing over her.

Later, Alexandra came forward to receive communion, holding Philippe in her arms. The person administering the bread was John Fugate, an elder in the church and Philippe’s doctor. He placed his hand on Philippe’s head and prayed a blessing over him. I’m not being poetic when I say tears streamed down Alexandra’s face.

Jesus was always quick to defend children. And while he was making a point about faith, these children showed me the true impact the church can have in the world. Alexandra’s reality was changed forever. God reached into her life and touched her in a very profound way through a group of children and a bunch of popsicle stick crosses.

We’re not going to save the world by taking back Washington. We’re not even going to save the world with our beautiful sermons. We will save the world by taking the time to become intimately involved in the lives of those around us; taking the time to hurt as they hurt, laugh as they laugh, and showing them hope in a God who is there, even when it seems like nothingness and pain are the only realities we can comprehend.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

When It's Time To Change, You've Got To Rearrange

I am afraid that my time in the magical world of Christian retail has come to an end. I was offered a part-time job at my church, and I made the jump.

This blog will still exist. I’ll still make fun of the Christian culture, but I envision this space growing to encompass more general discussions of faith and culture along with critiques of bumper stickers. This was bound to happen anyway. You can make fun of Joel Osteen’s hair for only so long before you get bored.

I believe this change will be positive. It’s like when Good Morning Miss Bliss became Saved By The Bell. We all cried at the departure of Hayley Mills as the lovably kooky Miss Bliss. But in return, we were given Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski. If that’s not divine providence, I don’t know what is.