Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: Jesus Died for This?

Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen ChristJesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ by Becky Garrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Becky Garrison writes from the heart. she 'calls it like she sees it.' this is a book that is raw. i appreciated the tone that Garrison writes in. I connected with her sarcastic/satirical musings - as i, often feel the way she writes... only she is bold enough to lay it all out there - exposed... for all to see and read.

her musings on the current state of the 'church' (and all of the baggage that comes with that) are poignant and amusing. i appreciated that despite her skeptic bent, she attempted to be fair - acknowledging when God was active and present - even if in ways that she either didn't connect with or fully grasp.

Jesus Died For This is an honest book. we don't seem to get many people speaking as candid as she - so kudos to her for that!

it's an enjoyable read... worth my time... and yours.

the church is screwed up. most church's within empire building nations are probably missing the point (perhaps not intentionally) but Garrison brings to light some groups and communities that truly are uniquely 'church'... communities doing all that they can to BE Christ - with no conditions.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010


the light of the world is upon us.

hope has come.

step into the light.

have you seen the star?

in the midst of your gift giving and gift receiving
may you experience the greatest gift to all.

do you see the star? look up more.

"After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."

Matthew 2

Friday, December 24, 2010

slient night





"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. "

on a night like this

it wasn't a perfect night (by man's standards).
it wasn't meant to be...

"But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."
Luke 2

Thursday, December 23, 2010

out of darkness

4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [John 1]

"out of darkness comes a great light."

and heaven and nature sing

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2

Friday, December 17, 2010

the literal journeys from here to there and places in between [2] westbound and down

the road west is long, straight and a bit wasted.

the first thing that comes to mind when i think of the road west is abandonment. have you ever been west of the Mississippi? have you ever been through Texas? New Mexico? Arizona? wide open empty spaces liter the landscape. and then, in what seems like a mirage, a building appears in the distance - only this structure is almost camouflaged by the weeds and debris that surround it.

the old west is a cataclysmic terrain of emptiness with pockets of civilization once booming, now looming. and yet so many are drawn to its lure. perhaps its because we all know what lies beyond, just a few more miles down the old road... the pacific. the land of opportunity. the land of celebrity. California. and California, for so many, represents hope.

my views of this road west, is slim. so forgive me for calling it like i have seen it - but driving along the mother road - Interstate 40 and off to the most historic of roads - Route 66 - all that is seen are memories of what once was. it's the past that has yet to catch up with the present, eons away from the future. because many moons ago, Americans were curious, and traveled across the country - living the dream, like Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Route 66 was the road of choice and boom towns sprung up along that sacred path - and they flourished. Then, in the 60's, Eisenhower's interstate system was implemented and old 66 was bypassed for the four lane super highway, connecting the east to the west, north to the south.

depression was left in its wake.

now that i've wasted three or four paragraphs painting my interpretation of history - what is the point? because i have, on a few occasions, traveled that road - both roads. and those experiences are monumental.

on one encounter - with the family, we traveled to Phoenix, to drop my sister off at an Indian Reservation school, where she served as teacher. the memories of that family trip, when i was about 20 - proved to be an experience right out of the script from the movie Vacation. It's as if my dad was Chevy Chase - bound and determined to make the trip exciting and fresh. but alas, everything went wrong, the least of which was the motel room in Tulsa. the Roadside Inn (not a 5 star hotel in the least), had a bed that was slanted (broken box springs) and a sound-scape of gunfire outside our motel door.

on another encounter - i was heading towards hope - and hope was discovered just past painted deserts and canyons so grand; through the intense, dry heat of Vegas followed by 300 miles of nothing... and then, with all its beauty shined the lights of the big city: the hopes and dreams of Los Angeles were right in front of me.

the journey was riddled with mistakes and bad food and the unmistakable stench that was Amarillo, Texas - but the backdrop of sun, rolled-down windows and U2 on repeat was redeeming enough.

there were 5 and dime's along the road - in small towns not fit for a truck stop. in one of these we stopped for a drink. i think they sold the Coke in the old glass pop bottles still. Time moved on, except here. our journey brought us to a stop. one couldn't help but reflect. the radio was stuck in 1958. the grass was faded, burnt by the sun. The pick up trucks were rusted, the old feed mills, closed. even the stop light didn't work. this was a town drunk from nostalgia in a shot glass - and i drank it up, too. i remember its vintage hues, its passing winds. the flat terrain allowed for the eye to gaze upon the Rocky Mountains due west and a bit north. i remember wondering if the inhabitants of such a town knew what was beyond that horizon? did they dream of opportunity like i did? did they long to escape? had they held on to any innocence? had they longed for a return of simple things? like jobs and passer-bys... and hope?

but my stay was not long. after a quick meal at some unknown shack where the hostess was the waitress and the waitress was the cook, we were on our way again. it was getting dark and a storm would soon be upon us. as Kerouac once said: "one fast move or I'm gone." the storm came quickly (as they tend to come out there). i was gone.

hope was ahead of me. despair was in my rear view mirror.

yet i have never forgotten that scene. that place. those places along the road, the road west.

what happened next was an adventure of a lifetime. Los Angeles. Hollywood. 3rd Street Promenade. The Pacific Ocean. Film School.

it was this journey that - in part - shaped who i am today. my values. my vision. my dreams. all fleshed out in the warm California sun. 6 months later i was back home again. i don't remember anything about the journey home. i remember that i made it back (that's about it.)

i returned with few regrets, clinging to hope - a hope that survived the journey west and the desolation of abandoned towns and crappy motels; a hope that survived the tragedies and dramas of life in the hills behind the Hollywood sign. for me, the destination was the journey.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: Story Signs and Sacred Rhythms

Story, Signs, and Sacred RhythmsStory, Signs, and Sacred Rhythms by Chris Folmsbee

this is a nice book that equipped me to help explain the story arc of the Scriptures... the story of God is something i feel most students do not connect with. it appears to be difficult for many to connect their story with God's story.

Folmsbee tackles this issue with this book. i have been drawn to 'story' and have tried to help my students connect with theirs and God's... but often i've wondered if they really are getting it.

i don't know that what i read was anything new - but Chris Folmsbee does do a good job connecting the dots, so to speak... connecting the God story and the Gospel story with Our story. he also gives guidance for any youth leader who may be courageous enough to use 'story' as a backdrop of teaching students about God and themselves.

this book takes the reader from Revelation to Foundation to Implication to Integration and finally to Application.

the most practical part of the book was his overview of the Story of God - from creation thru restoration. that was refreshing and simple.

After reading, i have some things to think about and digest.

This book fits with where i think God has been calling me in leadership and discipleship of students.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Review: The House Church Book

The House Church Book: Rediscover the Dynamic, Organic, Relational, Viral Community Jesus StartedThe House Church Book: Rediscover the Dynamic, Organic, Relational, Viral Community Jesus Started by Wolfgang Simson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

i found this book to be easily digested, easily read and easily understood. Wolfgang Simson has written, perhaps, the quintessential book on the House Church. Simson shows the simple side of the house church movement - a movement he suggest pre-dates what we currently know as church. with roots in the early, new testament era churches - the house church can be a movement that grows 'sideways' (as he puts it) rather than upward. house churches can also be low cost churches, small in size and stature - yet able to grow at faster rates than most mega-churches.

for anyone curious about new church planting or the house church movement - this is a must read. i'd suggest any and all potential church planters read this book as well. there are many practical thoughts that may aid in the development of new church starts.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Maker Moment # 77: Look Up More

chances are you probably know about Improv Everywhere - a performance art group from New York City. They were formed in 2001 by Charlie Todd and their slogan is 'we cause scenes.' Basically, the group carries out harmless pranks or 'missions' as they call them, in public spaces around the city. once missions are developed, they use social media to get the word out - then anyone who wants can participate in the missions. these 'flash mob' scenes are aimed to bring about 'chaos and joy.'

Frozen Grand Central Station is probably IE's most famous (and creative) flash mob gathering.

Improv Everywhere has spawned copycat flash mobs - to the point that the flash mob idea is gaining a cult-like following. Just YouTube "flash mob" and you'll see what i mean.

recently a flash mob video from Macy's department store has gone viral - with over 14 million views on YouTube in just over 3 weeks. This Christmas Food Court Flash Mob consists of shoppers standing up and singing the many parts of Handel's Hallelujah chorus.

What makes Improv Everywhere and other Flash mobs so appealing to people? I think it has to do with the idea that people want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. these friendly mobs are a picture of true community at its best. strangers coming together to bring goodness, delight and joy to the masses. people connected with something in common. people united for simple, some-what child like enjoyment.

mankind was wired for this! to be connected. to be in community with others. God wired us this way because at the core of the human heart is a need to be wanted, appreciated, needed and connected.

this brings me to the Christmas season of which we are now in the midst of. at the heart of the Christmas story are disconnected people being brought together because of the shining light that entered the world, in the form of a humble, innocent baby boy - born in a dirty, smelly stable.

there's an Improv Everywhere mission titled 'Look Up More' in which participants of this flash mob stand in the store front windows of a large, multi-story shopping mall. After doing a series of harmless stunts in unison (jumping jacks, pointing, dancing, etc.) the members in the middle section of windows hold up letters spelling out the phrase: L-O-O-K U-P M-O-R-E, to the amazement of the spectators who have gathered outside, across the street.

a simple reminder to 'look up more.' perhaps a reminder for all humans to look around and see the world - to see it's beauty... to see it's innocence, and to enjoy what God has given us all.

think of the group of shepherds on the hillside of Bethlehem, tending their sheep that special night 2,000 years ago. The looked up to the stars and an angel appeared - to proclaim the good news of a savior's birth. Think of the wise men - who saw the star in the east (Matthew 2:1-2) and followed it to the foot of the Messiah. They 'looked up' and the great light brought them not only together with each other - but together with the new born King of Kings. By looking up, the shepherds and wise men were instantly connected to Jesus.

and so God got there attention - and the attention of others. and so a connection was made. and so Christ-centered community was created.

and so it continues today. the innocence of the birth of our Savior connects us and reminds us that we long to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. we long to belong!

Improv Everywhere reminds us... flash mobs remind us... and this Christmas season, may the story of the birth of Jesus remind us: to truly belong - we must look up. see the stars. understand our role in the story. recognize that God is shining down upon us. every night. trying to get our attention.

just like the flash mobs referenced above: may we draw attention to the One greater than us all - who longs for us all to be a part of a his community, filled with grace and hope and love.

forever and ever.