Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: The Medium is the Massage - an inventory of effects

The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects by Marshall McLuhan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Marshall McLuhan is/was a modern day prophet. his foreknowledge of what was and would eventually take place in society as a result of rapid technological advancement is nothing short of amazing. No doubt, the global village (a term coined by McLuhan) was a mere blip on the horizon when The Medium is the Massage was written, but McLuhan saw a scratch in the surface and with great insight and foresight he explains how technology functions one way while our human thinking functions another.

Using an array of images and words (McLuhan is quite a wordsmith- some appear to be made up as i couldn't even find a definition for them) McLuhan paints an interactive picture of how technology 'forces us to live mythically' but we continue to think 'fragmentarily on separate plains.'

technology is inter-connected like a ball of yarn, weaved together with no beginning or end.

human thinking is fragmented - like individual puzzle pieces, with each piece placed in different compartments.

what i find incredible is that these insights were written in 1967. 1967!

the first quote cited in his book states "The major advances in civilization are processes that all but wreck the societies in which they occur."

i think we can all potentially see that in light of all of our technological advances in our present day - the more tech - the more problems. yes, technology has certainly brought about rapid advancement in our world - but it comes at a price.

McLuhan taps into the potential cost of tech advancement in the world with amazement. this book could have been written today!

"All media are extensions of some human faculty - psychic or physical." Media is an extension of who we are. McLuhan recognized this long before Facebook or email or the internet or wireless cell phones with text messages were ever a part of our world.

Simply amazing.

This is a creative book. i could go on and on. it is captivating. the art. the text. the typography. the drawings. images. all help prove the point. we can't look at things the same way ever again. if we fail to recognize how media infiltrates life - we fail to exist.

life is no longer linear. it's been gradually becoming less and less - since the inception of the alphabet. media has been a massage to all our senses - more and more and more. as people progress media is in tow. or is it the other way around?

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Book Review: Sabbath (from the ancient practices series)

Sabbath: The Ancient Practices Sabbath: The Ancient Practices by Dan B. Allender

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"the sabbath is not merely a good idea, it's a commandment."

in America, we tend to puff up our chests, proudly proclaiming how busy we are. really? how absurd is that? why do we resist slowing down and spending time at rest in quiet? why do so many resist the idea of sabbath?

we would all say that we crave it - but we seldom make the appropriate changes.

i anticipated finding in Dan Allendar's book Sabbath some practical ways to take a sabbath day of rest. i was sadly disappointed.

over and over (and over and over) Allendar makes that point that the day of rest - the sabbath day - should be a day of delight... of joy. what he wrote wasn't bad - but the repetitive nature of the 190+ pages made it difficult to stay interested.

after the third chapter, it was tough to stay focused.

i did, however, appreciate chapter 3 titled Holy Time.

time should be honored as a gift. "receive 'sabbath' time like a queen." be intentional with your time.

after that, it began to drag on and on and on. I had higher hopes for this book.

Next up is another book titled Sabbath written by Wayne Muller.
perhaps it will be better.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

ramblings of randomness 2: electric boogaloo

a follow up to my random post from the other day.

so i was reading in Leviticus this morning. what a way to start the day! and i stumbled upon this verse:
33-34 "When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.
~ Leviticus 19:33-34 (the Message)
and in case you find the Message translation to be too much of a paraphrase...

34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
~ Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV)

i find this verse very interesting in light of the new law in Arizona to rid its self of illegal immigrants. Arizona Senate Bill 1070 states that any Hispanic can be stopped and detained unless they carry the proper paperwork proving their citizenship. So this is what we've come to. I dare say that Arizona is out of control. Jon Stewart referred to them as "the meth lab of democracy."

This new bill is the toughest of its kind.

So in light of all of this - and putting politics aside: what should the Christian, no,Christ-like or Godly response be?


actually, speaking of politics, I wonder how Christians might act, think, behave or believe different if we looked to the example of Christ first rather than our political party of choice.

what if we made great effort to 'love' first? how would our country and our world be different?

we would probably care for others more. there would be no debate on health care. we would find a way to get sick people well. there would be no poverty. we would find a way to get people fed and clothed and housed. we would probably care for the earth more. if nothing else, we would take care of it. we'd recycle, etc. wanting to take care of the earth doesn't make one an environmentalist (in the radical sense, anyway). it makes one human. was not Adam instructed to take care of the land? [Genesis 3] We'd listen more. there would be less arguing and bickering. public servants called to public service would follow the needs of the public first not greedy temptations.

some of our current systems may be flawed - but would they be if we acted Christ-like first? think of how productive we could be?


if you do a Google image search in order to find pictures of 'Jesus' this image of Jesus holding a rifle will no doubt show up. really? a rifle? people have a keen knack of distorting scripture to say what they want it to say.
So what did Jesus mean when he said "blessed are the peace makers"; "love your neighbor as your self", "love your enemies"; "pray for those who persecute you"; "turn the other cheek"; "give to those in need", etc.

I don't remember him saying "Annie get your gun!"

yeah, i know, the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms. fine. but don't insert Jesus into your own desires. Bear your arms if you like. i pray you never have to use it. Life would be different if this guy hadn't been packing heat.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


imagine. love. from Tim Beck on Vimeo.

this video was played at the end of a reading of the following text:

as part of a worship service dealing with serving the least of these.

imagine... a world without selfishness would be a world of... love.

Monday, April 26, 2010

rambling of randomness.

a facebook status update has been circulating as of late. basically it wishes our president dead. even worse, it's a 'prayer'. some might say "it's just a joke" - but it's not funny... and why some 'conservative christians' would post this boggles my mind. if you don't like the man's views, opinions or policy, fine. wishing him dead? not fine. might i suggest following Jesus first - before political affiliation? oh how things would change if more of those who 'claim' Christianity as their faith would follow Jesus first.

speaking of Obama - he had a sit down with Billy Graham this weekend.

before sending out Forwards via e-mail - remember: it's important to check the facts first. is a good source to check. Here's the latest one i received. again - it was proven false.

why do i care that an email forward was being sent around and it was false?

No matter what one's political views may be - i feel that as Christians we have a higher calling to follow Christ first. with that comes the commands to love God and love people. also, we are called to love our enemies. (see Luke 6:27, Matthew 5:44, Matthew 22:36-40). with that - i think we should strive to spread words of truth. participation in the spreading of misinformation does not line up with the teachings of Jesus. we may at times do so inadvertently - just remember, most of the Forwards that are spread throughout the internet are false.

some may not see eye to eye with our current presidential administration. they have a right to speak out for that which they disagree with - but remember what Woodrow Wilson once said: "every man has a right to his own opinion - but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review: The (un) Official Church Staff Manual

The (un) Official Church Staff Manual: Youth Pastor Edition (Youth Specialties) The by Mark Riddle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
whimsical. at times, funny. something that only youth pastors would enjoy.

it was a quick read. might be funnier if read aloud in the presence of other youth workers while at a youth workers convention. might not be as funny while reading it at home before bed.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

three years / ten years

on this date 3 years ago i lost my father to a heart attack.

on this date 10 years ago i lost a good friend... kind of like the kid sister i never had. she died of cancer.

you both were a blessing to me and my family. thank you.

today i choose to not be full of sorrow - but joy. thankful for Edward C. Beck and Erica L. Ellifritz.
Gone, but not forgotten.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: Velvet Elvis

Velvet Elvis Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
this is the 2nd time i've read this book.

it's been five years. funny - how much i had remembered and how much i had forgotten. i have a friend who claims this book changed his whole life and literally rescued him from walking away from his faith.

Bell paints a beautiful picture of what faith in Jesus could and should be. He has a keen eye for detail... details most of us may have missed.

i like the way Bell describes a life of faith. simple, yet difficult. he doesn't seem to pull any punches, calling things as he sees them.

Basically, Velvet Elvis should be required reading for any newbie Christian - or life long Christian who has lost his or her zeal.

at times i feel like my zeal for God and his church has been stolen... that i've allowed it to be taken from me. in my skepticism, i, at times, find it difficult to see the redeeming power of Jesus, when it comes to the church. Velvet Elvis helped me find faith in the church - in what it could become.

Bell has his critics - but he seems to not let them steal his joy. frankly, i think his critics just plain misunderstand him.

Rob Bell seems to have found a way to practically live out a faith that is full of life, just as God intended - where stolen zeal is not an option.

i am glad i pulled this off the shelf. i may need to do that again in a few years.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Book Review: Reaching Unchurched Teens

Reaching Unchurched Teens (Youth Ministry in the Trenches) Reaching Unchurched Teens by Rick Bundschuh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
not a bad book. it was something i needed to read... to help me refocus my ministry, a bit.

basically, reaching unchurched teens should (obviously) be a priority. at times this has come easy for me. right now, i am finding it to be more difficult. not the interaction with what i'd call 'non-traditional' church kids - but keeping them plugged in to our ministry.

Bundschuh's book on reaching the unchurched teen was practical. it wasn't necessarily mind blowing - but it was refreshing for me.

this book walks you through the process of reaching teens: thinking it through, putting it together, and making it work. it's the kind of book that most youth ministers might need to peruse from time to time.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010


Journey to God-Knows-Where

The terrain ahead is dusty and frail. Cracks in the asphalt scatter outward. Stone, dirt and washed away soil mesh with the tall, burnt-yellow grass along the long and narrow ditch. A barrier of stagnant water separating the field from the road. The gentle path of the western wind blows across the soybean fields from right to left. The evidence of rain too-far-gone, can be seen in the puddles of muck and mire amidst the rows of planted crops. Will I ever escape the filth that surrounds me?

Various hues of grey and blue dot the horizon. A twinge of light from the golden sun is trying to appear; the clouds seem hard-pressed to contain it. The climate is mild, but cool. The morning dew covers my sandaled feet. I long for the sun to peek from around the clouds. I want the warmth on my skin - a deep contrast to the cold darkness that lines my inner being. Will my true self ever feel that warm sensation again? I feel too broken to be fixed.

The landscape ahead now serves as my canvas and I am its muse. But I know not how to pose; I know not where to move. I want to run... want to hide. I long to run from the inside out; from a world of darkness to a world of color. The earth around me is trying to be green, striving to be alive, but all I see is black; all I feel is death. I am yearning to stand still; to be silent; to be at rest.

High contrast. Sharp and protrusive. Dim and murky. Luminous and beautiful. The parallels of emotion and reality accompany me as I begin something that will become more than a journey. If I could only believe my destination would be anything less than disappointing. I have no other choice. Tail between my legs, I am returning home.

I wonder what awaits me there?

by Tim Beck

written for reCreative ministries

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

definition of "Christian"

It is possible for music to be labeled Christian and be terrible music. It could lack creativity and inspiration. The lyrics could be recycled cliches. That "Christian" band could actually be giving Jesus a bad name because they aren't a great band. It is possible for a movie to be a "Christian" movie and to be a terrible movie. It may actually desecrate the art form in its quality and storytelling craft. Just because it is a Christian book by a Christian author and it was purchased in a Christian bookstore doesn't mean it is all true or good or beautiful. A Christian political group puts me in an awkward position: What if I disagree with them? Am I less of a Christian? What if I am convinced the "Christian" thing to do is to vote the exact opposite?

Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.

~Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis pg. 84

Saturday, April 03, 2010

lenten 40: day 40 - end?

image 40.

the period of lent is coming to a close. the culmination of a 40 day period of preparation through prayer, repentance, charity and self-denial for the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

40 days. the same amount of time Jesus spent in the desert, prior to the beginning to his public ministry. by the time he had completed his isolation, he know doubt was prepared for what would happen 3 years later - when he would take to the cross - making the greatest sacrifice for all. the 40 days in the desert ended with him leaving desolate isolation. the period of lent ends with him entering ultimate isolation.

isolation saturday. dead. buried. gone. but not forgotten.

for 40 hours he would lay in the tomb. but it wasn't the end. it some senses, it was the beginning. of something new. and different. and more powerful. the beginning of a movement starts now. just like in the book of Acts.

this is not the end.

our time of lent officially ends - but our attitudes and behaviors, brought on with a lenten commitment don't have to. we can continue to practice forgiveness, self denial and charity. we can be the change we want to see in the world.

Friday, April 02, 2010

lenten 40: day 39 - finished

image 39.

Seven things he spoke from the cross. forgiveness. salvation. affection. anguish. suffering. victory. and contentment.
  1. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
  2. Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).
  3. Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (John 19:26-27).
  4. Eli Eli lama sabachthani? ("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?", Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
  5. I thirst (John 19:28).
  6. It is finished (John 19:30).
  7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).

In the Gospel of John, chapter 19 verse 30 reads: "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."

He gave up his spirit. He gave up his spirit. willingly. gave up his life. i think it is important to note that he went to the cross according to the will of God - so that all might be saved. nobody took His life. He gave it up.

we reap the benefits today. today is a good day.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

lenten 40: day 38 - satisfied?

image 38.

20They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
~Matthew 14:20-21

Jesus feeds the 5000. is a fascinating example of how Jesus offers food for the body and food for the soul. i love that after the food had been distributed and consumed, not only was there leftovers, but they all ate and were satisfied.


As noted in the book, The Teaching of the 12 a book about the ancient Didache Community, the same words Jesus uses when he blessed the fish and loaves are the same ones used when he broke bread with the disciples the night of the Last Supper. I am willing to bet that after that fellowship meal, the disciples, too, were satisfied. other than Judas, and despite the shortcomings of the other 11, they recognized the greatness of Jesus and found satisfaction in Him.

but perhaps the satisfaction found in Christ wasn't fully realized, i presume, until after his death, resurrection, ascension and arrival of the Holy Spirit.

you and i have the advantage of knowing the whole story - of seeing the big picture - and yet how is it that some of us never seem to find total satisfaction in Christ Jesus? are we having a hard time letting go of those worldly things? are we unwilling to empty ourselves so that Christ may fill us? why do we look to the wrong things to bring satisfaction?

Mick Jagger said it best: "I can't get no, satisfaction... and i try, and i try and i try and i try..."

sometimes we consume things that bring about a false sense of satisfaction. in other words, satisfaction is short lived. big macs. alcohol. material possessions, etc. these things leave us satisfied only for a little while.

but the sacrifice that Jesus offers us - the bread and the living water, so to speak - gives us full life. true life. eternal life. what more could we ever want?

i don't want the death of Jesus to be in vein. i want to grab hold of the One who satisfies all of our wants, desires and needs. i pray that on this Holy Thursday, we will all cling to the love of Jesus - and then be compelled to share that love with others.

The Lord's Supper
17On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

18He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.' " 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."

22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"

23Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"
Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."

26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."

27Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

30When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

~Matthew 26:17-30