Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I really appreciate this guy...

Mark Oestriecher's openness and authenticity is refreshing and encouraging. From what I read on his blog, I want to be like him when I grow up.

Interesting Quote...

As I attempt to recover from cynicism and being overly critical, I stumbled across this quote:

“The best critique of the bad is the practice of the better" by Peter Maurin (I think.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dog-Walking Musing...

This evening as I was walking the dog I saw different scenes that were an interesting contrast related to community.

First, there was a group of older men hanging out around a pick-up truck at the 7-Eleven shooting the breeze. I didn't catch exactly what they were talking about, but it seemed they were enjoying being together talking. Then as the dog and I walked from the 7-Eleven that last several blocks to our house I could see the glow of a television in at least 4 different homes.

The first scene brought the word "community" into mind. The second sight brought the word "isolation." I wonder if we have not somehow lost the art of gathering in groups to spend time telling stories, catching up on the latest local news, and just being together.

I am sure there are a whole host of reasons why we come home from work/play/etc and sit in front of the television, but when we spend time connected to our cable or satellite link are we somehow disconnected from our neighbors?

(Note: The irony is not lost on me that someone could be walking their dog right now see my sitting at my computer and wonder about the disconnection from neighbors when connected to the internet.)

(Post-Note: I had to be careful with the title. I almost had our dog walking a musing...I love grammar!)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Name Our "Vacation" Home...

For our sixth anniversary (yes Jill has put up with me for over half a decade!) Jill and I bought a "vacation" home as gift to ourselves. Yep that's right, we shelled out the bucks to purchase a spacious, one-room tent!

So far we have used it three times: we set it up in the living room the night we got it, we slept in it in our backyard to see how it worked, and finally we took it to the Shenandoah National Park on our actual anniversary. It was great!

Now, since people name lots of other people name their vacation homes, we figured it would be a good idea to name our...uh...vacation home. The person whose name we pick for our tent will receive a prize of some sort!

So unleash your creative genius and share your ideas in the comments section below!

(Note: That is not us in the picture - those are highly paid models we selectively hired to assist us with our tent-naming. However, that is actual life-sized exact replica of our new "vacation" home.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Life Together...

Anybody read this recently? Have any thoughts or wisdom to share?


I just received a spanking while reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life
Together. On page 30 he states:

Christian community is like the christian's sanctification. It is the
gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of
our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and
trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the
christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so
too, the christian community has not been given to us by God for us to
be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily
receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will
fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.

And then further down the page:
Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is
rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may

Whoa! This really challenges the way I have thought about christian
community, particularly as it applies to the local church. It seems
that much thought about church culture is that the tone, the feel, the
mood, the culture is determined by the church leadership and church
membership. But according to Bonhoeffer, our role is to participate
in the christian community God has placed us in - for it is a gift of
God that we are to be thankful for.

I'll need to ponder this for awhile...hmmm....

Friday, June 22, 2007

Absolutely amazing...

Check out this video of some up and coming technology...absolutely amazing!

(Hat Tip: Marko)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Christian Community...

I finished Scot McKnight's The Jesus Creed and have now picked up Dietrich BonHoeffer's Life Together. Wow! I am only 26 pages into it and I am blown away by what he has to say about Christian community. While I cannot replicate the wisdom he shares about Christian community, here are three quotes and reflections from the first 26 pages:
...the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life, but in the thick of foes. There is commission in his work. (p.17)
Exactly. We are commissioned to go out into the world (Matthew 28:19-20). I don't know that I would use the word foes to describe the relationships with others, but the sentiment is one I resonate with - We leave the comfort and safety of our Christian bubbles to engage the world around us.

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this...We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ. (p. 21)
While we are called to go out into the world, we are also called to be in fellowship together, whether for a few minutes, an hour, whatever. In that time we find encouragement. For the goal of Christian community (according to Bonhoeffer) is to meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation. It is Jesus that we see or seek in others and that others see and seek in us when we gather.

...the Christian is the man who no longer seeks his salvation, his deliverance, his justification in himself, but in Jesus Christ alone. (p. 21-22)
I find in Bonhoeffer a great relenquishement of self. In that the focus is no longer on self, but in the "Word of God in Jesus Christ." For instance, conviction or righteousness comes from Jesus - through the word of God. It meets us where we are. And when others see us, it is Jesus they see and seek.

In a sense this is a loss of self, however maybe a better way to say it is that it is a way of seeing ourselves as "right-sized." We see self in a divine perspective - we are vessels or jars of clay through which to carry the message of salvation (the one we are reminded of by our brothers and sisters in Christ) and empty it out into a world that is thirsting for such a message.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sermon Writing...

Well, I am in my 3rd week of having my sermon written by Tuesday. What a liberating feeling. It is not a final draft by Tuesday, but at the very least it is a manuscript that can be shaped and molded for the rest of the week.

Last week I didn't have a manuscript done by Tuesday and I'll use Annual Conference as the reason. Preaching seemed to go okay without a manuscript - i've been preaching that way for the past four years.

However I am pleased for the new discipline of writing something out ahead of time. I think it helps to clarify thoughts for me since I process my ideas by getting them out of my head either into spoken or written word (hence the name of this blog.)

So far this "new" habit is working well. I just hope I can keep it up!

Monday, June 18, 2007


I'm back from Annual Conference and will post more about that experience later, but I wanted to share this article I found over at about how the "open-source" movement is changing the world. Thomas Friedman in his book The World is Flat, also suggests that open-source is changing and will continue changing the world.

My question is this: How is the church adapting to changing culture, specifically open source in order to continue to share the Gospel and point the mighty acts of the Most High God? Or what ways is the church remaining steadfast in the midst of everchanging culture to be that force that points to the Gospel?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Annual Conference Blogging...

Today is the first day of the Annual Conference of the VA Conference. (Essentially the annual business meeting of the United Methodist Church in Virginia.) I am trying to keep an open mind about the work to be done and the impact it might have for the kingdom of God. I must confess, I am skeptical about the impact of these few days here but I as I said I am trying to keep my cynicism and skepticism at bay.

I will post updates as the week goes along. This is the most prepared I have been for an annual conference in that I read a lot of the reports ahead of time. This morning should be pretty boring...but they have WiFi (free) here in the Roanoke Civic center, so I will find productive ways to occupy my time...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What the World Eats...

Check out this photo essay from Time magazine. It shows 15 families from around the world and what they eat in a week. It also includes cost of the food for the week. Really, really eye-opening. It makes me curious about what I eat in a week and how that compares with the 15 families in the essay.

Hat tip: Bionic Teaching

The Wisdom of Crowds...

I just finished this very fascinating book by James Surowiecki. His premise is that groups of people who are intellectually diverse and make decisions on a concept, problem, or idea independently (without consulting others) will more consistently come up with a better answer than any individual could provide.

An extremely simple that can be applied in a larger context is a jellybean counting contest. If we were to do a contest, it is much more likely that the groups average guess is going to be closer to the right answer than most or all of the individuals.

As I was reading this I couldn't help but wonder how this could apply to the local church setting or conference decisions. I hope to spend some time reflecting on this - possibly at annual conference next week.

Overall, the Wisdom of Crowds is a thought provoking read that I highly recommend!

Great Discussion on Sin...

Scot McKnight over at Jesus Creed from time to time will post in a series called Letters to Emerging Christians. In this series he posts a question someone has sent him on some aspect of belief, church, and/or theology.

Today he posted a question someone asked about sin and the nature of sin. I was delighted and edified to read Scot's response. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:
Now this leads me to this: Sin is whatever impedes the flow of human life and our world into that everflowing perichoretic loving dance within God. Whatever resists it; whatever works against it; whatever breaks down human union with God; whatever distorts the world’s design to participate in that dance is sin. This also means that whatever impedes proper love between humans and humans or between humans and this world is also sin. The law comes in merely to clarify where love is breaking down. Defining sin by ignoring love misses what sin really is.
You can read the entire post here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Birthing...I mean...Writing Process...

I am finding the writing is like birthing a baby - not that have much experience with that. There is a certain amount of time that it takes for a baby to be properly formed - so it is with a thought or idea. (I am sure I am not the first or the last to use this simile.) What brings this thought to mind is that I have begun a new process for sermon-writing that is still in...well...process.

I am trying to take 10 days to write a opposed to my, I'd rather not say. My process before was like trying to birth a baby in less than 9 months - you need all nine-months for optimal formation - and so I wonder if the thoughts/ideas in my sermons was not quite fully formed.

So I am learning what many who are much smarter and much more experienced have been trying to tell me for about the last 23 years: the process of shaping words and ideas takes time. It can't be rushed. Of course, the more one practices the shaping of words and ideas, the more adept and efficient one becomes at writing.

For too long I have relied on spontaneity and personality in my writing and public speaking. So, I am trying to retrain myself to use those tools as part of a tool chest rather than as my only crutches to get me through Sunday.

This will require some discipline and self-control on my part (those things seem to come and go like the clouds, sometimes!) to implement this new process. I believe forming these new habits will payoff dividends not only for me, but for those who must listen to me.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


It's been a lazy day at our house. Reading, sleeping, playing on the computer...I have been playing around with the iGoogle as my start-up page. I am trying to organize it so that I can see all my e-mail, calendar, weather, news, etc. on one page. They have a wide variety of other "widgets" one can add to personalize one's page. Kind of cool stuff...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Interesting Video on Worship...

While I don't always agree with McLaren, I found this video about worship very interesting. What do you think?


I haven't been posting as much this week. In addition to the short holiday week, I have been trying to adapt my schedule to a new rhythm for sermon writing and preparation. My goal is to get to the point where I have a rough draft manuscript written by Tuesday, thus giving me the entire week to prepare and practice. I hope to have the first "Tuesday" manuscript done by this Tuesday. So far it seems to be going well...of course, its not Tuesday yet!