Ever seen a cop dance like this?

If you need a pen, Matt has recommended a good one.

thanks Mike.



Originally published at:

Evan/August Rush learns to play the guitar for the first timeWhen our lives are rhythmically in tune with God, the music of our lives is played out to anyone around us who cares to listen. Maxwell “Wizard” Wallace (Robin Williams) says to young August Rush (Freddie Highmore), “[Music] is God’s reminder that there’s something bigger than all of us.”

August Rush grew up in a boys home, known as Evan Taylor. Separated from his mother, Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell), at birth by her over-protective father, both desperately wanted to know the other existed. Living a life of feigned existence and separation, neither pursued their shared passion for music. But an innate sense brought them back to music.

Evan begins the movie in a field, swaying in rhythm with the music of the wind saying, “I believe in music, the way that some people believe in fairy tales. What I hear came from my mother and father, once upon a time.” The movie also follows his father, Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), working as a West Coast businessman, also avoiding his former life as lead singer of a band.

After Richard Jeffries (Terrence Howard) from the Department of Child Services checks in with Evan and the boys at the home, Evan decides that now is the time to find his mother. He sets off for New York City with nothing but the music of his soul.

When Evan first meets “Wizard,” he picks up a guitar for the first time and instantly shows off his musical prowess. “Wizard” wants to give Evan a new name, August Rush, and give him a platform to share his music. Sounds a bit like the Saul-to-Paul transformation in the New Testament.

August Rush and his father play dueling guitarsAfter police raid “Wizard’s” hangout, August is left wandering the streets of New York. He hears music coming from a church and wanders in to find a gospel choir in the midst of their practice. He finds Hope (Jamia Simone Nash), a young girl in the choir, who gives him a place to sleep, teaches him about music and introduces August to the minister.

Up to this point, Evan’s music came from the heart. He didn’t have a process or a structure or rules. His music came out of a childlike innocence, innocent and pure. Sitting at a piano in the church, Hope asks him, “Do you know your notes?” August is caught off guard: “I’ve never seen them like that before.” A childlike faith can be caught off guard in the same way when introduced to rules and regulations of religion.

August’s musical prowess took the minister’s breath away, and the minister found a way for August to attend Julliard. Learning how to write music, he composes a full-scale rhapsody which his professor discovers. The professor passes the rhapsody onto the Dean (Marian Seldes). She called August into a board meeting, where they informed August that they wanted the New York Philharmonic to play his rhapsody:

August: How many people will hear it?
The Dean: It will be performed in Central Park, on the Great Lawn.
August: A hundred?
The Dean: Much more. Thousands.
August: OK, I need to play it to a lot of people. Lots and lots.

Even with this newfound knowledge about music, August has not lost his passion and excitement. He wants nothing more than to share the music of his life with as many people as he can. What if people of faith lived with that same eagerness to share their passion?

August and the Wizard in the park“Wizard” constantly reminds August of the importance of his music, its connection to his heart and the world around him: “You gotta love music more than you love food, more than your life and more than yourself...You know what music is? A harmonic connection between all human beings.” Our spirituality longs to be number one and that “music” in our lives will connect us to the world around us.

August asks “Wizard” where the music comes from: “I think it comes from all around you, really. It comes through us, some of us. It’s invisible, but you feel it.” August asks, “So only some of us can hear it?” and “Wizard” responds: “Only some of us are listening.”

Are you listening to the music this Christmas season? August found the music, lived the music and shared the music.

The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.” - August



1. Wrapping paper or gift bag?
For the last-minute wrapper (like myself), the gift bag is so easy. But then again, it looks like, "Hey, I didn't want to spend the time wrapping so I just threw it in a bag." Final answer: wrapping paper.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial. It's not sticky.

3. When do you put up your tree?
Growing up, it always (almost) went up the day after Thanksgiving, or sometime that weekend. It's gotta be after Thanksgiving though.

4. When do you take down your tree?
Again, growing up it was down sometime around or on New Year's Day. Any longer seems tacky.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Egg what? Nope, of course I've never had it. But still, not interested.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Tie: The one I remember most is the LEGO train. It took a while and a trip back to Toys 'R Us to get it working correctly, but it was a lot of fun once it did work! The one I recall from pictures was the LEGO Christmas after the fire. A lot of the LEGO's I had played with (Dad's from the 60's and 70's) were gone, and Santa brought new ones.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
There are a couple around the house (apparently three), but I don't have one.

8. Hardest person to buy for:
It's all about the same.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
See above.

10. Worst Christmas gift you've ever received?
No comment.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards?

12. Favorite Christmas movie?

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
December. It often has to wait until after classes and exams are over.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No, but some of those "Worst Christmas gift you've ever received" are still around. Hmmm.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Frosted sugar cookies and chocolate covered cherry cookies. I hope I'm not missing any... I think those two are my absolute favorite.

16. White or colored lights?
Depends on where you're putting them

17. Favorite Christmas song?
"This Christmas/Joy to the World" by TobyMac and "Little Drummer Boy," Jars of Clay version.

18. Travel for Christmas or stay home?
That depends on what you mean by travel. One of my favorite Christmases was the year we woke up in Richmond, spent most of the day in Northern Virginia and drove to my grandparents' that night. I think as long as we get some time at home, it's good.
Then there's the year we had a miserable Christmas on a cruise ship. We weren't home. We puked. All of us. There wasn't much to do on the ship. Our stop in St. Martin/St. Maarten was on Christmas Day, and naturally everything was closed. And people were beating each other over the head with glass bottles. An all-around great Christmas. Not.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. And Rudolph.

20. Angel or Star on top of tree?
At home we have an angel. When I have my own tree? I'll leave that decision to Kim...

21. Open presents?
It was probably near the end of high school or beginning of college, I think my parents finally got tired of us always asking on Christmas Eve to open a present. We started having a Christmas Eve book, and the tradition lived on. It's a good one.
As for the rest of the presents, it's usually (unless we're on a cruise ship...) Christmas morning. A couple years ago, I was on staff at a church when Christmas was on Sunday. We had the Christmas Eve service there, and then I went with my family to their church. Then Sunday morning we all went to my church, and then drove out to Charlottesville to be with family for the day. I was exhausted at the end of that day, but we came back home and opened Santa's presents and our family presents that night.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Everyone and their mother is out driving around and shopping all the time, and it takes an eternity to get anywhere. Runner up: exams.

23. What I love most about Christmas?
When it's a quiet, peaceful night and you drive/walk around and see a Christmas display (lights, nativity, etc.). Last night, I was at UR for the annual Christmas Candlelight Service and caught a glimpse of the library tower with the lighted wreaths hanging high above the University. I guess that's the kind of feeling the shepherds had when they saw the star. Except Jesus isn't underneath my "star."



I don't normally listen to Christian radio. For whatever reason, though, I had the new local station on during my drive to class. After the morning's Scripture reading from the Book of Psalms, the anchor said, "And remember, Merry Christmas. With a capital 'C.'"

Sunday morning in worship, during the epically-long greeting, the welcomer said, "Now we'll do something that you probably haven't done very much. And forget being politically correct. Say this after me, 'Merry Christmas.'"

This morning I received an e-mail, purportedly shared by Ben Stein on CNN (although it did resemble a lot of SPAM/urban legend-type e-mails: SNOPES says a variation is true). The message was from Ben Stein:

I am a Jew and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish, and it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautifully lit-up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are -- Christmas trees.

I'm trying really hard to be "merry" this Christmas season. For the past half-decade (maybe longer), I have been bombarded with academic work in the days leading up to Christmas. It's been a struggle to find joy in that kind of a season! I still have class this year, professors are still assigning papers and exams, but I am trying hard. Then I realized that maybe my trouble finding joy is more about the "church" than about me.

Every time we turn around, someone else is fighting for "Christmas." Fighting? For Christmas? We can worship in our churches and celebrate with our families any way we want. Ben Stein said he's not offended. A quick history lesson:

In 1492, King Franz Ferdinand and Isabella finally "cleansed" the Spanish countryside of the last Muslims and the nation become solely Christian. What came after that? [Yes, fourth grade history wizards, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.] The Protestant Reformation came next right on its heels. The voice of a new kind of Christian that was not concerned with everyone worshipping the same way. This voice wanted to give everyone freedom of worship, and a separation of the Church and the state.

If the Church keeps fighting about Christmas, there will likely be a new Protestant Reformation. According to Phyllis Tickle, it will happen, if it's not happening already. Then maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to celebrate Christmas without hearing about a fight.



from Marko:

The rules of the game:

- the person has to either be a) dead, or b) alive, but no way you’ll ever have a chance to have dinner with them.

- real people only. no fictional characters.

- it’s not 6 individual dinners. it’s a dinner party with 6 people (plus you). think of the mix.

- assume no language barriers. in other words, it doesn’t matter if they speak or spoke another language than you and your other guests. you have magic instant translation technology.

- jesus doesn’t count. it’s a dinner party. therefore, 2 or more are gathered. therefore, jesus is already there.

So here goes:

1. Bono
Sure it's cliche, but think about all the great conversations he would have with...
2. Robert Mugabe
...about why Mugabe does what he does in his country (he's President of Zimbabwe). Maybe I'll mediate, or maybe I'll just let Bono do the dirty work, and joining the conversation would be...
3. Zach Hunter
Great kid who has put in a lot of time and effort to spreading his word about modern-day injustices. I don't think every kid needs to do what Zach did on that scale, but they can all fight for something -- good, that is!
4. Mother Teresa
Who wouldn't want to share a meal with her?
5. Josiah
Ever since that musical in 4th grade, I liked the guy.
6. St. Jerome
Just finished a paper on him. Talk about a spiritual guy, he spent five years in the desert. With people who hated him. With very little food.

That was kind of fun. Who would be at your "Never Gonna Happen" dinner? It's hard to choose for a list of "idols" when you don't really have any. But it's fun to think. My list would probably change next week. And the week after...


Open quoteJesus was too smart to ever run for public office.Close quote

    Mike Huckabee
    Republican presidential contender, when asked whether Jesus would use the death penalty at Wednesday's CNN/YouTube debate


Open quoteYes, I'm going.Close quote

    Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe
    confirming his plans to attend the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon next week despite strong European opposition


It's that time of the year. One week of classes left. Then one week of exams. Papers are due, tests are coming. I'm working real hard this year to not be a Scrooge, and I think my exam schedule is helping that happen...and my fiance loves Christmas.

Plus, the Spiders are still playing in the NCAA FCS playoffs. Go Spiders!



Psalm 69:30: And will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

What do we accomplished by our thanks? When we say "thank you," what happens? When we receive a gift, we thank the giver. It recognizes their giving spirit and our gratitude. It's a personal thing. But God created all, so the ultimate thanks should recognize the giving spirit of God, and our gratitude to God. But it shouldn't stop at us -- it should be, as this Psalm says, about magnifying God, making the name of God greater among our friends, our family. It's all part of bringing the Kingdom of God down to Earth, making this place a better one. As you sit down around the table today, give all the thanks to God.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Normally our church includes the Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation in the Thanksgiving Eve Service. They didn't this year, and without starting an argument about whether or not the President's Proclamation should or shouldn't be a part of the service, here it is. I like that the President can set aside Thanksgiving Day for our entire country. It's a good thing. In the words of my young cousin, "Happy Ganks-Turkey!"

Americans are a grateful people, ever mindful of the many ways we have been blessed. On Thanksgiving Day, we lift our hearts in gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, the people we love, and the gifts of our prosperous land.

Our country was founded by men and women who realized their dependence on God and were humbled by His providence and grace. The early explorers and settlers who arrived in this land gave thanks for God's protection and for the extraordinary natural abundance they found. Since the first National Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by President George Washington, Americans have come together to offer thanks for our many blessings. We recall the great privilege it is to live in a land where freedom is the right of every person and where all can pursue their dreams. We express our deep appreciation for the sacrifices of the honorable men and women in uniform who defend liberty. As they work to advance the cause of freedom, our Nation keeps these brave individuals and their families in our thoughts, and we pray for their safe return.

While Thanksgiving is a time to gather in a spirit of gratitude with family, friends, and neighbors, it is also an opportunity to serve others and to share our blessings with those in need. By answering the universal call to love a neighbor as we want to be loved ourselves, we make our Nation a more hopeful and caring place.

This Thanksgiving, may we reflect upon the past year with gratefulness and look toward the future with hope. Let us give thanks for all we have been given and ask God to continue to bless our families and our Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2007, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to reinforce the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.




I've never lived outside Virginia, and I'm amazed that I can turn around and find something new in the nooks and crannies of the great Commonwealth. From the state's capital, drive less than two hours and have your pick: the beach, the nation's capital, the mountains. Out of my travels around the state in the past few years, here's my top 5 places in Virginia:

5. Eastville, VA: This small town represents the entire Eastern Shore. The Shore, making up the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, hasn't been tainted by big chains (WalMart) and still acts and feels like yester-year. From the southeast Virginia end, the only entrance to the Shore is by way of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a series of three bridges and 2 tunnels. The Shore has a great hospital too.

4. Monuments, Memorials, Statues and Museums: Apologies for being ambiguous and all-inclusive, but Virginia is home to some fantastic history that shows itself in "The City of Monuments" (Richmond), the National D-Day Memorial, Civil War historical sites across the state, and countless others throughout the state.

3. Blue Ridge Parkway: I've only really spent time on the Parkway around Roanoke, but it is always a great drive. The scenic outlooks give you a chance to hike, take a picnic or just relax along the drive. But watch your speed, the National Park Police are watching!

2. James River Park (Richmond): Home to the nation's only urban Class IV rapids. The park is a great getaway in the
middle of the city, from the westernmost Pony Pasture through downtown in the east. Swimming, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, hiking, biking, walking or running, it's all there. And it's incredibly peaceful early in the morning around sunrise.

1. The Breaks Interstate Park: I took the youth group to the park on a trip a few years back, and it is absolutely a hidden treasure. Nestled well off the beaten trail of Southwest Virginia, the tour guide led us to the newest acquisition of the park, not even on the map yet. The river's rocky bed made for a great slide and swimming area, and people jumped the cliff around the bend under a railroad bridge. Make a stop at the Pikeville's Rusty Fork Cafe just outside the park's Kentucky side for some good eatin'. Also home to our former senator's infamous "macaca" comments.



Open quoteSomehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us. At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design...I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jive with my version."Close quote

    presidential hopeful, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
    in an address to the national meeting of the United Church of Christ

from the Associated Press (June 23) by way of The Journal of Student Ministries


Over the past few months, my iPod has been acting strangely. I deduced that the hard drive was on its last leg, and gave it a little tech CPR a few times. My patience finally ran out, and I realized it was time to move on. I posted the broken iPod on eBay, fully disclosing its brokenness (including these pictures of the sad face!) and darned it if the thing didn't sell within 24 hours for the Buy It Now price.

Broken iPod: $40.
Shipping & handling: $5.95
Having a broken iPod to give someone for Christmas: priceless

For high quality gifts at Christmas, there's the Apple store. For everything else, even when it's broken, there's eBay


A few lessons I have learned this week, and in the weeks leading up to this week, about what we as pastors and leaders do in church:

1. Start well: when you are just starting off in a new setting or a new position, don't expect to make changes immediately. Remember, you've not lived the same story they have. You don't know the sensitive spots. You don't know the inner workings of the organization, the leaders, the personalities. Resist the temptation to be their superhero, and you'll win their respect in the long run.

2. Hold up 1: Think about what you are saying before you open your mouth. I am often tempted to speak to a situation before I know the whole story. I have been confronted by people who attacked me, my character and my work before they had the whole story. Again, resist the urge to be a superhero. People don't need us to save the day. They need us to care for them. And personal attacks don't fix problems, they only create more.

3. Hold up 2: Cecil Sherman told the story of moving out of a town after serving as pastor for many years. As he and his wife approached the neighboring county, he pulled the car over, got out and shook out his head. From that point forward, he didn't know who was cheating on whom, who had stolen what, where the problems were. As a leader, and particularly as a pastor, we hear many, many stories of the personal lives of our people. Treat those stories with respect. And if the story is not confidential, take care that the story is not misrepresented as it is passed from one person to the next.

I find it ironic that each of these points dealt with maintaining humility and avoiding a superhero mentality. I heard someone say last week that love is not the absence of hate: it is the absence of selfishness. As a pastor and a leader, it is vital that we maintain that humble nature in all we do. In Micah 6:8,

But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously—take God seriously" (The Message)



Open quoteJesus comes into the city on a simple mule, and you got people today expanding His gospel in corporate jets. Close quote

    on the investigation of six prominent evangelistic ministries and whether they illegally used donations to finance lavish lifestyles

from Time Magazine's Quote of the Day



from the desk of JC. no, not THAT one...

What is the price or value of a soul?


That's the price that Wal-mart has put on each of their customers. A couple weeks ago, I happened upon a documentary on CNBC about the inner workings of Wal-mart. It was a very interesting program. One of the main things that stood out to me is that Wal-mart has done extensive research into their business.

If, for example, I go into my local Wal-mart store and get bad service; can't find what I need; have to wait in the checkout line too long; or anything else that really makes me upset, Wal-mart knows that they have a lot to lose. In fact, they've calculated the value of what I'm worth to them. If I get mad at Wal-mart and never return, I have just cost the company (on average) $215,000. That's how much sales they have figured they will lose from the average customer over their lifetime if they don't come back...

Wal-mart puts a high value on me and every other person and family in my community.

Many churches, on the other hand, seemingly couldn't care less about the people in their community. Sure, we give them lip service, but when it really comes down to reaching our target, many of us are too busy arguing about carpet color, worship styles, and how much to 'give' to missions in Africa, all the while missing the main point of reaching our own community for Christ.

Wal-mart provides diapers and socks and hemorrhoid cream for a profit.

The church offers eternal life and salvation for free.

Shouldn't our communities know we value them at least as much as Wal-mart?



In the first (of hopefully many) Mission Minute features for Bon Air, we take a look at the team that recently traveled to Peru as part of the disaster response after the August earthquakes. On the personal side, my dad was on this trip so it was fun putting together the stories from his trip with work.

Bon Air Baptist Church


Today was wedding cake tasting day. Mmmm, mmm good. I think this is my favorite part of the wedding planning process so far. I'm thinking we're going to need to taste some more cakes before we make a final decision.



Kim and I spent some time yesterday downtown and at Maymont with my brother. He took a couple hundred pictures and got some really good ones. Here's a preview...



The first Christmas Eve I was on staff at a church, we had our Christmas Eve service Saturday night, as Christmas was on Sunday. On the way out that night, I stood with the Pastor at the back door, as was our custom after worship. One man stopped as he walked out and said, "You really should pray 'in Jesus' name.' He likes hearing his name." Well, Merry Christmas to you, too! Apparently that night I simply said, "Amen" at the end of the prayer. Thereafter, I was self-conscious about how I prayed. It took me a while to get past second-guessing myself.


One of my classes this semester is entitled, "Music and Worship." I am trying very hard to be objective about the worship experiences I have had in churches during the past few years, and put them through the filters of effective, Biblical worship that we have examined in class.

During an entire year in college, my friend, Mike, and I traveled to churches around the city each Sunday, including all denominations in our search. There was no specific goal in mind, but we wanted to see the numerous traditions in the city. Aside from a few stylistic elements in each church, all of the "contemporary" and all of the "classic" services looked and felt the same. I guess in the quest to follow the inspiration of God, it is good to know that many are on the same page. However, I have still not seen a worship service where I think I would be drawn into a worshipful experience.

I have never listened to myself lead worship, but perhaps I lead the same way as all of the other contemporary worship leaders. What I have seen in this contemporary worship movement is a move toward fun, happy, joyful, entertaining music. Many times, the contemporary band is comprised of middle-aged adults who struggle to appeal to younger generations. Often, I have seen the music be

Occasionally, I have seen youth worship gatherings that touch on my ideal worship setting, but they are only weekend-long, or week-long experiences. Here are the pieces I see as being necessary:

  • Organically-created music leadership: the service need not be dominated by an electronic keyboard, electric guitar and synthesized drumset. Make it real, make it authentic. Our worship should be real and authentic, and the instrumention should indicate that.

  • Create a living room environment: So many churches have worked to make the music "comfortable" to non-churched people; or they bring in food, coffee and other creature comforts. Why not make it feel like a living room? [ok, a family room. Living room situations don't tend to be that comfortable!]. What do I mean by living room setting? Lay out a rug where the worship leader and pastor are standing, turn down the lights and create an environment of closeness. We know we are part of a large gathering because we hear the voices. By turning down the lights, we allow ourselves to be drawn into a closeness with God, yet remain a part of the larger gathering. For me, leaving the lights on gives me a sense that someone is watching me at all times. This also does not mean flashy lights, or a lot of high-impact media. I have some media on my TV, but I don't have a high-tech light show, and certainly not a disco ball!

  • Use Scripture, traditions of hymns, litanies: I heard a story of a church that tried to be anti-traditional with their new worship service. The traditions of the Church can make a worship experience much richer. Our people, the younger generations especially, are looking for a challenge. A watered-down faith does not challenge them. Raising the bar high, knowing the expectations of living a Christ-like life and understanding what worship has looked like for centuries incorporates that challenge into the worship setting.

  • I don't know that the list stops there, but that's enough for my first outline. Kim and I had a conversation Monday night about our desire for a worship gathering where we connected, and a church family that included people our age. It is incredibly difficult to find, and is made more difficult in that I will inevitably be working in a church after we get married. I trust that we will find a place to be, a place to serve, a place to worship and a place to commune.


    Part two of the Young Leaders Program starts tomorrow afternoon. I've tried to be more motivated about posting on the blog, so I figure this is as good of a time as any to start posting every day. I'll try to update during our three days of class. Maybe it will work!

    update: So posting more often didn't really happen. At least not about YLP, yet. It will. One day.

    college students today.

    props to Marko for finding this one:

    which reminded me of another video i saw recently:


    donald miller.

    Two things make me really excited about this book. First, Donald Miller is writing another book. Second, it was inspired during the screenwriting for the new movie, "Blue Like Jazz." Let the countdown begin! It's going to be a long countdown though -- supposedly Feb 2008 for the book, and filming may start next summer for the movie.


    free burma.

    Free Burma In solidarity with those struggling for freedom in Burma, bloggers around the world are posting this banner on October 4, 2007. Pray for the faith community — both Buddhist and Christian — in Burma.


    ht to Chuck


    tough questions.

    One of our students recently had a friend ask:

    If God loves people unconditionally, then how does God let people go to hell?

    Tonight I was reading some of Augustine's stuff for class, and came across a couple interesting lines:

    In this world, when the stuff that is considered evil is put in its place as evil, it makes the good look so much better, because good things bring greater pleasure and praise when compared to the bad things. The all-powerful God, who is acknowledged even by non-believers as the Supreme Power in the universe, would not allow any evil in his works, unless God could bring good out of that evil. What is evil except the absence of good?
    ...Then whatever defects are in a soul are just the absence of a natural good. When that defect is cured, the defect doesn't transfer somewhere else; they cease to exist because good overcame evil. Paraphase from CCEL

    My mind doesn't churn very often when I read this kind of stuff, but this did. Maybe it's the real-life application. There's certainly nothing wrong with thinking every now and then...


    senator sues. God...responds?

    As if this story could not get any better. After Sen. Chambers sued God last week to make a statement about frivolous lawsuits, the Almighty responded.

    "This one miraculously appeared on the counter. It just all of a sudden was here -- poof!" [Court Clerk] Friend said.

    God responded to the allegations, saying, "the defendant is immune from some earthly laws and the court lacks jurisdiction," and "adds that blaming God for human oppression and suffering misses an important point." [CNN]

    If you ever need to respond to God, or have the contact information in case of a lawsuit, none was provided. But, "St. Michael the Archangel is listed as a witness, Friend said."

    Seems to me that this Chambers guy looks like God (a la Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty.



    I didn't have to be as stealthy as Marko to get an early copy of "Remedy," I just had to know the right person, and he loaned it to me. Crowder has always had a way with worship, and "Remedy" is no different.

    "Remedy" begins with "The Glory Of It All," a simple, yet powerful song that draws in the complete power and glory of God, from Creation to the end of time, and drawing on the whole Gospel story. It sets the stage for an experience of awe in worship that is incredibly powerful.

    The rest of the CD? It continues on, almost as its own, complete worship experience. I'm ready to put a video background behind it with moving images, highlighting certain words (a la iWorship) and using it as a worship service sometime.

    "...neverending..." features the hottest piece of Crowder's summer tour, the now-famous use of the Guitar Hero guitar. Who turns something so simple (it only has three chords) into something so powerful? Well, other than Crowder... [side note: google "david crowder guitar hero" for a wide selection of YouTube/Google videos]

    As usual, DC*B has innovated their use of music, they bring diverse styles to this album and yet remain so simple. The words are powerful, but not complex. They draw the listener in and share a hope for so much more.

    On a personal note, this has been a really long week. When my friend handed me the CD Tuesday, he said, "I think you might need this more than I do right now." It has been on repeat ever since. At some point, I usually get tired of listening to the CD in the same order, so I'll let it shuffle. This one I have made sure to leave going in order. The song progression will lead you into a time of worship, and is quite remarkable. And now I'll echo Marko's sentiments:

    "ok, i’m gushing, i realize. for me, this is why god invented music. sorry you have to wait a [week]. pre-order, i tell you."



    The guys just got out of the studio recording their 6-track demo, and it's great to hear their stuff again. "Dance Revival" has one of my favorite lines ever in a song: "ain't no fire gonna get me, i was bathed in the water that set me free." Check them out online @ Sovatone.com and if you're in the RIC, they'll be playing at Alley Katz on September 29.

    threads: get uncomfortable.

    For a couple years, I have had the hardest time finding decent Bible studies for college students. Get Uncomfortable has great media included -- not an overdose, but a nice compliment -- and great insight on a subject that so many students are passionate about these days: serving the poor, stopping injustice, changing the world...in Jesus' name.

    suing God.

    When all else fails, sue...God?? A Nebraska state senator is.

    Chambers lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in Douglas County Court, seeks a permanent injunction ordering God to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.

    The lawsuit admits God goes by all sorts of alias, names, titles and designations and it also recognizes the fact that the defendant is “Omnipresent”.

    In the lawsuit Chambers says he’s tried to contact God numerous times, “Plaintiff, despite reasonable efforts to effectuate personal service upon Defendant (“Come out, come out, wherever you are”) has been unable to do so..."

    Chambers also says God “has manifested neither compassion nor remorse, proclaiming that Defendant “will laugh” when calamity comes.

    And the truth: Ernie Chambers wants the state's lawmakers to legislate against frivolous lawsuits. Gone are the days when you can sue McDonald's for hot coffee. Or God for creating harmful activities and terrorist threats.


    summer reading.

    My brother had to read the incomprehensible, boring, required summer reading texts for his AP English class this summer. I finally got to read what I wanted to read! Here's a few of them:

    Praise Habit: David Crowder
    While I have not actually finished this book yet (I didn't realize it was going to be a devotional-type book), I have already come to appreciate what Crowder does. As in his music, his writing draws the reader into a time of personal worship and reflection. He brings in the Psalms and urges the reader to take 30 days and to pray through these selected Psalms using the tradition of Lectio Divina. Crowder follows each day's Psalm with a reflection of his own. A powerful way to start the day.

    The Last Best League: Jim Collins
    Collins followed the Chatham A's through their 2002 summer season. I only picked this up because Tim Stauffer was a classmate of mine at the University of Richmond, but this read made me want to make a visit up to the Cape Cod League. It is the only summer league sanctioned by the NCAA, and gives the best of the best college baseball players a chance to show off their stuff to a full slate of Major League scouts. Collins spent endless hours hearing the stories of each player and coach, and painting a picture of summer life in Chatham.

    Directionally Challenged: Travis Collins
    It is not often a book will reach out across generational lines and be successful. Dr. Collins writes of the call that Christ followers have on their lives, and meets people where they are at: in high school or college, just beginning to plan out their career path; post-college, in the midst of a career and sensing a change in calling; and past retirement, seeking a way to continue serving God's Kingdom with more free time. A great read, and a lot of good insight on following your life's calling. And he mentions me (not by name.) in the Intro -- but the review is impartial.

    When It's Rush Hour All Day Long: John W. Tadlock
    Tad is a good friend, and someone whom I greatly respect. Somehow, I had never heard mention of his book until we were handed copies in class this summer. A fairly short read, but a good reflection on the pace at which we live our lives. Honesty is often absent in today's church, but Tad lays it all on the table and opens up his heart and his life so that others may avoid the same pitfalls he has found. If your life is too fast-paced, or you're headed that way, find a copy to read.

    Letters To A Young Evangelical: Tony Campolo
    Campolo writes to a modern Timothy and Julia seeking to lay out for young Christians what it means to follow Christ in today's world. He writes of the building blocks of faith, evangelism, the Scriptures, Jesus and the Church, hot button topics of war, homosexuality and environmental awareness, along with politics, fundamentalism, loving Muslims and women in the church. He calls on today's generation to be aware of their surroundings and how their faith impacts every part of their lives. A great read, and a book I'm using as the basis for a Bible study with college students.

    My Faith: Mark Oestreicher and Kurt Johnston
    The first of the Faith/School/Family/Friends series for middle school students. A nice, easy read that reaches out to middle schoolers hearts and minds as they ride through the early teenage years.

    two months...

    ...since the last blog post. And just as long since the last POTW. Oh well, life shall continue. And perhaps I will start blogging more often again.

    Plenty has happened since July 18, which is probably why I haven't blogged. Let's do a quick run-down, roughly in sequential order:

  • Accepted a position with the Glocal Ministries Pastor at my home church

  • Resigned from the Youth Pastor job

  • Moved home to save rent money for the next year, in anticipation of...

  • Buying a ring, so I could...

  • Get engaged. On the beach. It was amazing.

  • Somewhere in the midst of that, I become Campus Minister for Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the University of Richmond.

  • Started seminary year 2.

  • I've read a lot, seen a lot and done a lot. My hope is to revisit the past two months and catch up on the blog. Hope and reality may be far apart.


    story time.

    This is such a great story. While I did not take it lightly as it occurred, I did not let it drag me down. This episode happened in early 2007. I did not feel comfortable posting the story then, due to my employment at the church. Now, we have all moved on so I feel as though I can write and share this story. I suppose that if I write each of these magnificent stories that occur in my ministry, I will have quite a collection by the time I retire!

    In April, the pastor met with the Deacons as they do each month. The pastor was anticipating his upcoming vacation at the beginning of June, so he mentioned it to the Deacons. I would be preaching each of the 2 Sundays he would be away, one being the first Sunday -- when Baptists traditionally serve Communion.

    The Deacons did not offer much opposition to me being the one to serve Communion. The issue: I'm not ordained. Two Deacons did have a problem with me not being ordained, but did not discuss the issue to any great extent. The following Wednesday, myself still oblivious to this situation taking place, one of those Deacons confronted one of the church's trustees in the hallway prior to the Wednesday night dinner. A crowd had gathered for dinner, and [Deacon A] started quite a show. When I asked the trustee later about the conversation, he said, "Aaron, you have just as high of a calling as anybody else in this church -- deacon or no, ordained or not ordained. I don't see any problem with you serving Communion, and I told [Deacon A] that exact thing."

    [Deacon A], it seemed, was in this for selfish reasons: if the Pastor, an ordained minister, is not present to serve Communion, [Deacon A] is the only other ordained minister in the church. He truly hoped for a church to minister in, but for numerous reasons, he had not had that opportunity recently. The story gets more interesting...

    Apparently [Deacon A] called numerous people in the church beyond that first Trustee. He called and talked to the Pastor again and again. Yet he never mentioned the issue to me.

    The Sunday before Communion Sunday, I walked into the Deacon's Prayer Time before Sunday worship and Bible study. [Deacon A] informed the Deacons that he would be out of town for much of August, and needed to switch his duty as "Deacon of the Month" to June, the upcoming month. Deacon of the Month is on call for any special needs; greets people on the way out of the Sanctuary on Sunday morning; and prepares the elements of Communion. [Deacon A] was now responsible for preparing Communion the following Sunday.

    On the way out of church that morning, [Deacon A] stopped and told me that he would prepare Communion for the following Sunday, but would not be in worship for "personal reasons." Imagine my surprise the next Sunday morning before worship as I am reading through my sermon when I hear his voice from the back. Why the change of heart? I still do not know.

    That morning, I changed the order of worship. Immediately following the sermon, we collected the offering. Five deacons came forward, but not [Deacon A]. But we need 6 to cover the entire Sanctuary. Another man in the congregation jumped up to assist. Following the offering, we moved into Communion. That man turned around to [Deacon A] because he knew a deacon should be assisting with Communion; he was ignored by [Deacon A]. Not only was I serving Communion, but so was an unordained man from the congregation!

    We distributed the bread (the Body of Christ) to the deacons/servers who passed it throughout the congregation. When they returned to the front, this is what I said: On the night that Jesus ate with His disciples in the Upper Room, He welcomed them to that place by washing their feet, a sign of his servanthood. Just as Christ served others, may we now serve others. Offer your piece of bread to the person sitting next to you, saying, 'This is Christ's body, broken for you.' Everyone in the congregation turned to their neighbor. A woman sitting behind [Deacon A] turned to him but was brushed off: [Deacon A] could not participate because he had not taken the bread!

    The Chairman of the Deacons offered the prayer for the juice (the Blood of Christ) and the deacons distributed the juice around the Sanctuary. [Deacon A] took the juice. There is one of two possibilities: he was simply boycotting the bread because I had offered the prayer for that element (this is the most likely possibility; in fact, the truth, I believe); or he was so embarrassed by the first experience of not having bread to share that he now wanted to make sure he would not be embarrassed again.

    [Deacon B] took a different approach. He remained quiet, yet opposed, and simply did not come to church that morning, saying he and his wife would be away visiting family that weekend. Although I didn't agree with his perspective, I certainly respect him for how he handled the situation -- quietly, to himself.

    Baptists believe in the "priesthood of all believers," which signifies the right of each and every person to pray and hear from God. It does not make sense, then, that only some people are eligible to serve. Ordination itself is a strange concept to me, but will be a part of my work in the church.

    I left that church soon after, but this experience was not at all a part of my decision to leave. It was simply God's call, and I had been sensing that nudging for close to a year.



    Fun times in the Young Leader Program today. We discussed through the MindFrames profile, and it's fascinating stuff. Get your own for free at www.InItForLife.com.

    My MindFrame:


    iPod first 15.

    from Kurt.
    The task: shuffle your iPod and list off the first 15 songs. Completely random and a lot of fun!

    1.] The Birthday Song: Paul Colman Trio
    2.] She Will Be Loved: Maroon 5
    3.] Close My Eyes: Matisyahu
    4.] Rock the Boat: Kinnie Starr [what the heck? random iTunes freebies I guess...never heard this one before!]
    5.] Susie, Don't Be Blue: Evan Marshall [MySpace | iTunes]
    6.] Student Driver: Stellar Kart
    7.] Dancing Queen: A-Teens
    8.] Names Sake: Shane & Shane
    9.] Empty Me: Jeremy Camp
    10.] Feel: Silers Bald
    11.] The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg: Iron Maiden [again, who?]
    12.] King of New Orleans: Better Than Ezra
    13.] My Neighborhood: Verbs
    14.] The Remedy: Jason Mraz [random fact: a couple of my students were in the school choir at Jason's former high school and sang on his album in '06]
    15.] Creation: WFU Minor Variation [my buddy Mike recorded their album in '06



    I've posted video projects I have worked on in the past few years, and tonight added what was probably my favorite. For a digital media project during my senior year at UR, I pulled together footage for this project. The basis was footage from a CBS correspondent embedded with Karl's unit in Iraq. When Karl was killed, he was there for the memorial service. Karl was a good friend, and a great guy. And according to his father, he loved the work he was doing for our country.

    It's here


    Looking back.

    I just stumbled across my original blog. Apparently there is no easy way to move posts from an old blog to a new one, but I have moved them over one by one. And they're here, but burried deep within. Look for 11 posts from February - August 2005, or the "original blog" tag.

    It's intriguing being able to look back, and exciting to see things that have changed. For one, I mentioned Jerry Falwell numerous times -- and now he's no longer with us. I'll try to revisit some of those old posts from time to time.



    It is not very often that I preach at church. Generally, the pastor is there on Sundays. If he's not, either I will fill in, or we'll call one of our friends to come preach. In just under 2 years, I've preached 4 times, this coming Sunday being #4.

    Last April, I preached on Youth Sunday. Sometime in the week just before that Sunday, a member of our church passed away. This is not a huge surprise, as many in our congregation are past retirement and are nearer to the end of life. In August, the pastor and his family were on vacation before their oldest son started college. Just days before he left, as I was preparing to preach on Sunday, another member of our church passed away. Twice seemed a bit strange.

    Last weekend, the pastor and his wife left for a week vacation to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. I preached last Sunday, and am getting ready to preach again this Sunday. This morning, I found out another member of our congregation passed away.

    After Sunday, I doubt they will ever want me to preach again. I'm not superstitious, but this is just strange.



    We spent a good three days with Tony Campolo in town last week. He had a lot of great ideas to share, and was incredibly down to earth. The first night he spoke on Becoming Red-Letter Christians. He gave a similar talk at the Youth Specialties' conference in the fall, but added a bit of Baptist jargon to this one. Second night he spoke on consumerism in America and its relation to true Christianity. I was on the worship team that led music for that worship service, and I had a chance to talk to Tony afterwards. The third day he spoke on the God of Love, as opposed to a god of power. Plenty to think about after the conference.

    Later in the week I picked up a copy of his new book, Everybody Wants to CHANGE THE WORLD: Practical Ideas for Social Justice. This is a great collection of ideas and places for individuals and groups to get involved in changing our world. I can't wait to have an opportunity to put some of these ideas into action with the students. A good, quick read and an inspiration!


    College-Age Ministry

    Just as we were starting our college-age ministry a few months ago, I had a pastor ask me why we had chosen Tuesday night. "Why not Friday night," he asked, "because that's the night they always hang out anyway?"

    Maybe that explains why churches aren't doing well with post-grad ministries after students leave the youth ministry. One ministry while I was in college originally met on Friday nights, but moved their meetings because students always had something going on Friday night, and they had a progressively lower attendance.

    When will they get it?



    pray zimbabwe.

    I ran across this group that has declared April 18 as an International Day of Prayer for Zimbabwe. They needed a web designer, so I took that on and helped get the website going. Stop on by to read the stories, see the pictures and find out more about the great African nation.


    I was interviewed on BBC's World Have Your Say yesterday. I did an interview last week with David Phillips for his podcast, DPRadio. This thing is getting huge, and it's exciting to be a part of it. I'll keep updating this post as new things happen!

    Originally published February 5, 2007.


    coming soon...

    Wow, time flies. All of a sudden we're halfway through March and I haven't written anything since early February. Writer's block, the intensity of school, an incredibly busy schedule and a lack of really anything to write about [and no pictures to post on the Picture of the Week blog...]. I'm up to the 6th of 8 straight weekends jam-packed with school, church, work. Hopefully that's about to change.

    Next week is Spring Break, and a long drive down to Port Sulphur with a combined group from church and seminary. I'm excited to see how things have changed in the 3 months since Christmas.

    This spring is the beginning of my online discussions for class on the upcoming Preaching and Worship Conference, featuring Tony Campolo. Our readings surround issues of social justice, and I'm excited about those discussions. Hopefully I'll have something to share here too.

    Well, it should be an exciting spring. I'm looking forward to warmer weather, more free time and hopefully new, invigorating things going on at church.


    my worldview

    These online quizzes are sometimes a bit shady. However, I enjoyed taking this one and thinking about the questions as I went through. And I consider it a proud moment that I'm only 14% Fundamentalist...

    You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



    Modern Liberal


    Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


    Neo orthodox




    Reformed Evangelical


    Classical Liberal


    Roman Catholic




    What's your theological worldview?
    created with QuizFarm.com


    my Gospel: part deux

    After hearing the professor outline the main points we probably should have included, and the style in which we should probably write, I edited a bit. Here's the second go...

    My Gospel:Revised

    God created each of us in the likeness of God, and through our relationship with Christ we are able to restore that likeness through our lives here in Earth. The Kingdom of God is not to be found only after death. To live and know God is to experience, believe and share in true community through the Kingdom of God, before and after death. To die and not know God is to miss out on this community.

    When God sent Christ to the world in the form of a baby, God opened a new line of communication with the people of the world to give a message of love and forgiveness to the people. Coming as a baby, born of a virgin mother, Christ was the greatest example of innocence. As the child of God, Christ grew into a significant ministry experience that gave each of us an example by which to live.

    While the down and out look different and have different names and job titles now, the example lived by Christ shows each of us how we should live our lives in order to best share God’s love with the people around us. Each of us needs to find and realize the “tax collectors” and “religious teachers” in our own lives; the people around us who are hungry and thirsty for nourishment, both literal and psycho-emotional. These are the people Christ touched, and they are the people we should reach out to. Christ did not stay within any one group of people. Christ reached out and loved all, no matter color, race, creed or religion.

    When Christ was put to death on the cross, God made an eternal statement to all people. Christ said, “Forgive them,” to the people about to kill him. For God to forgive the murderers who killed Christ should represent for us God’s incredible gift of grace and love represented to us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. If we can take seriously the gift God gave to us and live to share that message with the people around us, we will hopefully spread the message of God throughout our land and around the world, making a difference in the lives of those who hear of God. And throughout the Bible, we understand the character of God leading up to Christ’s birth, allowing for future generations to put all the pieces together: to see God in the beginning, to see God as Christ is sent to Earth and to see the work of Christ and the early church as they attempt to share God’s message with the world.

    my Gospel.

    This semester I'm taking a class entitled "Life and Work of the Pastor." Our assignment for Tuesday was to write our Gospel, or what we would share with someone as the essential elements of our Christian faith. The first attempt was a little rough, and I'm turning in the second draft which I'll post later. It's an interesting exercise, and hopefully at some point, each one of us will have a conversation where we share our Gospel with a non-believer.

    My Gospel

    When God sent Christ to the world in the form of a baby, God opened a new line of communication with the people of the world in order to communicate a message of love and forgiveness. Coming as a baby, born of a virgin mother, Christ was the ultimate in innocent life. As the child of God, Christ grew into a significant ministry experience that gave each of us an example to live by.

    While the down and out look different and have different names and job titles now, the example lived by Christ shows each of us how we should live our lives in order to best share God’s love with the people around us. Each of us needs to find and realize the “tax collectors” and “religious teachers” in our own lives; the people around us who are hungry and thirsty for nourishment, both literal and psycho-emotional. These are the people Christ touched, and they are the people we should reach out to. Christ did not stay within any one group of people. Christ reached out and loved all, no matter color, race, creed or religion.

    When Christ was put to death on the cross, God made an eternal statement to all people. Christ said, “Forgive them,” to the people about to kill him. For God to forgive the murderers who killed Christ should represent for us God’s incredible gift of grace and love represented to us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. If we can take seriously the gift God gave to us and live to share that message with the people around us, we will hopefully spread the message of God throughout our land and around the world, making a difference in the lives of those who hear of God. And throughout the Bible, we understand the character of God leading up to Christ’s birth, allowing for future generations to put all the pieces together: to see God in the beginning, to see God as Christ is sent to Earth and to see the work of Christ and the early church as they attempt to share God’s message with the world.


    jesus camp.

    The most alarming aspect of Academy Award-nominated Jesus Camp is the indoctrination of children at an incredibly young age. Mike Papantonio, a political radio show host, confronts Becky Fischer with this realization during their on-air interview.

    Becky, the leader of the Jesus Camp, was Children's Pastor for Word of Faith Church and Outreach in Bismarck, ND, before focusing her efforts full-time on Kids In Ministry International. Their ministry goal through workshops and training events for parents and leaders is to empower children to be all that God has for them to be. Through the camps of Kids In Ministry, the film shows these children being taught God's warfare in this world, and the supremacy of America as God's country. In one scene, a leader raises up a life-size cardboard cutout of US President George W. Bush and urges the children to reach out and pray over the President.

    As the film opens, we hear radio clips from the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In the Director's Commentary, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady mention that Bush's announcement of O'Connor's resignation came as they began filming, and they believed it was necessary to include that as a thread of the Evangelical Movement they were portraying.

    Soundbyties from Mike Papantonio's Ring of Fire, balance the Christian worldview portrayed by Pastor Becky and the Jesus Camp. "So there’s some new brand of religion out there," Papantonio says, "that somehow things have changed since Matthew wrote about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus told us to be peacemakers."

    This camp raises up children who believe they are separated from other children around them. Some are home-schooled because their parents want a different worldview impressed upon their children. Levi, a 12-year-old, knows and shares this in the film: "I do think I’m different from other kids because we know Jesus and we’re hungry after Jesus. But you know what, I wouldn’t be different from other kids if everyone did their calling." Tory, 10, follows: "Really Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan, I could definitely care less about them. Their songs are mainly based on guys or girls, and we as Christians, well I, do not believe in that."

    In what has become a controversial aspect of the film, the children visit New Life Church, where Ted Haggard was Pastor. Haggard first expressed his dismay with how he was portrayed; then Haggard found himself in the midst of a scandal centered on his personal behavior. To those not a part of the Church, or who are unfamiliar with varieties of American Christianity, the correlations between the Jesus Camp and Ted Haggard could prove confusing.

    The film introduces Levi, Rachael and Tory, shows their families, follows their time at camp and ventures across America with them as they put into practice what they have been taught. The words coming out of the mouths often sound more like a seasoned Pastor than a young child. During camp, Rachael takes a walk around the camp and speaks to the camera: "Churches that God likes to go to are churches where they're jumping up and down, shouting his name and just praising him...they’re not quiet…they're [shouting] 'Hallelujah God!!' And depending on how they invite him, he’ll be there or not." During the credits, Rachael has a conversation with three men during one of her visits to the city about where they think they will go when they die. They give her all of the traditional Christian responses. Her response: "I think they're Muslim."

    "And right now, everything they do, they say they do in the name of God," Papantonio rants, "that we need to go to war in the name of God. They’re being told that George Bush, of all people, is a holy man, who’s been anointed with the job of creating a Christian nation, not only in America but all around the world."

    For an incredibly passionate documentary, Ewing and Grady have accomplished an insurmountable task of creating a work that is balanced. This is certainly a credit to their hard work and desire to create a solid film. In a recent interview on "Ring of Fire," Ewing and Grady mentioned their continued contact with Fischer and an ongoing relationship. They successfully engaged their subjects and maintained a relationship despite the controversy that surrounded the release and widespread viewing of the film. This is what a documentary should be.


    me, myself and bob: part III

    A couple weeks ago I was looking forward to reading Me, Myself and Bob. Then I read the book and wrote the formal "review". Now I'm gonna take a shot at conveying what I took away from it.

    In Chapter 21 (out of 22), Phil writes of influential reading he did soon after the downfall of Big Ideas. He was reading Henri Nouwen and was fascinated by how Henri gave up an Ivy League teaching job and moved into a home with handicapped individuals. Then he found a book his wife bought him but had never given him. Through this tThree stories changed his perspective on life:

  • The Shunammite Woman [2 Kings]

  • Noah: The Early Years [Genesis 6:9]

  • Abraham & The Sacrifice of Isaac

  • The Shunammite Woman and Abraham were each tested by God to see who they valued more: God, or their children. Both Abraham and the Shunammite Woman had dreams of having a child, and God granted them that dream. Then God threatened taking their children away from them. Each accepted the possible loss of their child, for they were following their God. God had Elijah breathe life back into the Shunammite Woman's child; as Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, God told him he didn't need to. When Phil Vischer had his dream of VeggieTales and Big Idea Productions, of creating media to change the world through children, God threatened taking Phil's dream away from him. Phil looks back now and realizes that he had not put God above all else, and God wanted Phil to refocus his life.

    Then Phil mentions that Noah accomplished a God-sized mission when he was 500. But what did he do in his first 500 years? Only one verse tells us.
    Genesis 6:9
    This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. [NLT]
    Noah lived a life of walking closely with God. When God knew that Noah was focused enough to handle the mission, God empowered Noah to do it. Even then, Noah screwed up. How much greater, then, will we screw up the little missions in life if we are not walking closely with God?

    I finished the book Saturday morning and sat down in the middle of my living room. The TV was off. There was no music. I sat there wanting to be following God so closely with my life. I've had my own missions lately, especially in church work. Last week was one of the lowest I have had as a pastor. And in that moment Saturday morning, I knew that my focus was off. I wanted so greatly to share that with the church, to help the church refocus. Phil's most poignant illustration: he said that he had gotten so caught up, so stressed out in finishing each video, pushing towards the next VeggieTales project, he forget even to care for the people he interacted with, the cashier behind the register in the grocery store. And after he had interacted with these stories, he took a pause in the grocery store and asked the cashier how life was going.

    May we be so caught up walking alongside God, that we lose sight of lofty visions and expectations of ourself and the church, and let God work in and through us.

    For lack of vision, the people perish...


    me, myself and bob: part II

    I hated VeggieTales. When WoW put "His Cheeseburger" on its 1999 release, I was ready to throw the CD out the window.

    Fast-forward to 2006. Phil Vischer was a keynote speaker at this fall's YS Convention in Charlotte, and I was spellbound. Phil is a storyteller, and he tells his own story with humor and a few years of reflection on the rise and fall of Big Idea Productions. Just as he did in person, Phil writes a great story of his own life in Me, Myself and Bob.

    Phil shares a great sense throughout the book of how previous events, his family and his view of God influenced the way he lived his life and ran Big Idea in the early years. He describes the technical and creative aspects of the production company, throwing in details of the talking, Bible-story-telling vegetables and creating a read that will touch everyone. Phil engages the reader through the amazing sequence of events that led Phil through the production of the first VeggieTales video and the thought process that was behind the creation of characters, storylines and the beginnings of what would become VeggieTales traditions. And the

    Phil's story pulls you into the highs, lows and brick walls of running an up-and-coming business. He is brutally honest about the shortfalls of the company and where he could have better led his employees, and where he should have let God be more important. He paints a portrait of the unique and influential leaders of Big Idea, and he his honest when placing blame for the downfall of the company on himself. And when Phil's VeggieTales story is over, it seems his own story is still only just beginning.

    You can buy it at Amazon.com



    Just answer 20 questions and find out what religion you should be. Mine was pretty right on, 100% in agreement with "Mainline to Liberal Protestant Christians"



    passing the baton.

    Something I've noticed in my 16 months of church work is a general disinterest amongst the Boomers & Beyond of passing on the baton to the younger generations within the church. There are solid people coming through our doors who would flourish if only they were given some responsibility and a place of value within this church. One new member last year was asked to be on the Baptism Committee this year. I am making a huge assumption, but my guess is that they chose him because he was baptized last year. They probably also felt a need to "fill a hole" on that committee. Nevermind the fact that he would make a great member of our Properties Committee based on his work experience. Enough ranting...

    The reason I posted this is because I ran across an article by Earl Creps, "Passing the Leadership Baton In Our Churches." He digs into Paul and Timothy in describing a biblical way to train up and empower new leaders in the church.

    The best idea I've heard recently for training up new leaders: we have experienced adults on our committees and young people who are more than capable of serving as well. If we pair some of them up, the young people will gain invaluable experience and the adults will be assured of the church being in good hands for generations to come!


    this week in pictures.

    My friend Jenn started a new blog last week: a picture a day. I thought, "Hey, this is a pretty cool idea. I could do that." Then I realized that would mean putting a picture online every day. Picture of the week seemed like a better idea, so I did it. And the first week (this week) I posted 2 pictures. Hey, if I'm making the rules, I can break them!

    Check it out HERE

    me, myself and bob.

    Phil Vischer was one of the best speakers at the NYWC this year. Certainly not because of his speaking skills--even now as I listen to his talk, it's obvious he's frequently leaning on his notes. But Phil had a lot to teach from the downfall of Big Idea, aka that company that made Veggie Tales. Phil's new book, Me, Myself and Bob came out yesterday (Tuesday, Jan. 9). I searched everywhere--Target, WalMart, the local Christian bookstore, and Barnes and Noble--nobody had it. So I'm eagerly awaiting the mail getting here to the church in a few days so I can read it. I'll let you know what I think. For now I just have to listen to the MP3 from Phil's talk at NYWC...

    You can buy it too at Amazon.com


    text messaging from e-mail.

    A fellow youth minister asked this morning how best to communicate to students and parents. It's expensive to snail mail, a lot of our students don't have or check e-mail, some parents don't want their students on Myspace/Facebook. So how about cell phones? Nearly every student has one, so how can we use them efficiently and inexpensively?

    Cell phone companies have dedicated e-mail addresses for each cell phone. [That's kind of scary to think that spammers could get through to our cell phones so easily!] Now we can tap into that by creating a mailing list in our e-mail program with our students cell numbers entered as an e-mail address. Here's how:

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    And a link to more carriers: HERE

    A few things to remember... Text messages can only have 160 characters--so keep it short! If someone replies to you and you want to reply, be sure to clear out the message window so the original message doesn't count toward your 160 characters.

    There is a downside: you have to find out what carrier each of your students has. For our youth group, I know what most of them have--but we aren't very big. An extra step, but it'll save some money. There are computer programs out there to send text messages from your computer if you only know the phone number, but you can only send one at a time. This way you get a mailing list message sent out to all your students from the comfort of your e-mail system. Please post a comment if you have an update, or a mobile service provider that I missed. Or if you have an even easier solution!


    port sulphur.

    We just returned from a week in Port Sulphur. A lot has changed in the 10 weeks since Christmas, so I'm reposting with an update at the end.

    Image Not LoadedEveryone has a story. Some tell their stories, others keep a private life. Put more than 3,000 people through a disaster of epic proportions, and many of them will share their stories. So here you are: the residents of Port Sulphur, Louisiana [Google Maps | Wikipedia], and their stories... [More on how you can help later]

    August 29

    Image Not LoadedHurricane Katrina wiped out the town of Port Sulphur. With a 20-foot tall levee on the northeast side holding back the "mighty Mississippi" River and a 20-foot tall levee on the southwest side separating the town from the bayou and the Gulf of Mexico, waves upwards of 25 feet breached the levee and flooded the town for nearly a week. Image Not LoadedA doctor's office located across the street from Port Sulphur Baptist Church floated to the back of the church property [1: original PSBC building; 2: original PSBC Fellowship Hall; 3: original location of Port Sulphur Family Practice; 4: new location of PSFP (shown in other picture)]. St. Patrick's Catholic Church was the only building in Port Sulphur capable of being inhabited after the storm, after significant rebuilding efforts.

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    The peninsula stretches southeast of New Orleans, with the town of Port Sulphur located 50 miles away. Conoco-Philips runs an oil refinery just north of the town, employing many on the peninsula. According to 2000 US Census Statistics, the peninsula is incredibly diverse: 45% white, 44% black or African-American and 7% Native American. The average commute to work is over 30 minutes. Twenty-two percent of people are under the poverty line, 40% of people over age 25 have less than a high school education, and the per capita income is more than $8,000 below the national average.

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    December 2006

    Much of the population has returned, but key businesses have not. A handful of gas stations, car wash, Ace Hardware, a handful of restaurants and the post office have been rebuilt. The skeleton of the Family Dollar stands empty on the side of the road, in better Image Not Loadedcondition than most original buildings. Among the missing: a grocery store and a fire station. The nearest grocery store is over 25 miles away. Port Sulphur's grocery store was scheduled to open this month, but has not neared completion. Half the fire station remains, as do two trucks and donated supplies and trucks, but no one is there to staff it. The Port Sulphur Sheriff's Department created a park for sheriff's deputies to park their temporary FEMA trailers.

    Image Not LoadedAs soon as residents were able to return to Port Sulphur, Pastor Martin says Mrs. Connie was one of the first to return. She knew she had a mission to fulfill in the community and quickly got to work. Using all of her savings coupled with her tireless effort, Mrs. Connie reconstructed the Port Sulphur Ace Hardware to be a beacon of light to the community. Martin said the building looked top-notch. Mrs. Connie knew that residents would need hardware and building supplies, and she wanted to help -- giving them the resources they needed, and a listening ear to hear their stories.

    Image Not LoadedPastor Lynn, of Port Sulphur Baptist Church, continues to lead the only Baptist church on the peninsula. Pastor Martin, of Grace Harbour Church, has partnered with Lynn to jump-start the community and help meet the needs of the people. The Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund has provided assistance for both churches. For nearly a year, they've been running a food pantry out of the Baptist church, with food coming from Second Harvest New Orleans. Image Not Loaded.Food has been brought in free of charge, but beginning in January 2007 Second Harvest will have to charge $0.04/pound to cover their costs because FEMA is no longer providing that assistance. A load of food delivered in late December would have cost $3,400. Also in January 2007, the food distribution will move to Grace Harbour because construction will continue inside the new PSBC building as teams from Virginia and Oklahoma begin framing work.

    Image Not LoadedThe churches also partnered in December to begin a new housing program for the people of Plaquemines Parish. Since the months immediately after Katrina, FEMA has provided temporary mobile trailer units with varied success. Many families who still need a place to live remain homeless due to the slow process of receiving one of these trailers through FEMA's red tape. Pastor Martin learned of a separate stock of FEMA trailers meant to be used as a permanent residence. These $50,000 units come fully furnished and are being distributed by FEMA through non-profit organizations. Insurance and other processing costs may be passed onto residents, but the units are provided by FEMA free of charge. In the last weeks of 2006, Grace Harbour compiled a list of nearly 1,000 residents who were interested in obtaining a trailer. Nearly 250 of those individuals were still residing out of state and continued to hold out hope that they could return to Plaquemines Parish.

    Image Not LoadedThe Saints and Hornets have returned to southern Louisiana, and the Sugar Bowl returned in early January 2007. The westbound I-10 bridge connecting Slidell and New Orleans over Lake Ponchatrain was repaired, but crossing the bridge into New Orleans carries drivers past miles and miles of destruction, until you reach the near-pristine downtown area of New Orleans. One apartment complex on I-10 with many damaged units displayed this sign: "Apartments for Lease." As Curtis, a local aid worker, noted, "It's nice that they've got the Saints back, but it's no good if people aren't here to enjoy it."

    Image Not LoadedMuch work remains in Port Sulphur, and throughout southern Louisiana and Mississippi. If you want to contribute time, contact your local Baptist church, the Salvation Army or the Red Cross, or contact Pastor Martin and Grace Harbour Church directly through their website. To make a tax-deductible contribution to the feeding program and rebuilding efforts in Port Sulphur [A 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization], send contributions to:

    Port Sulphur Baptist Church

    26845 Highway 23

    Port Sulphur, LA 70083

    And for those who can't contribute time or money right now, the people of the Gulf Coast region certainly welcome our continued support through prayer.

    March 2007

    March and April bring prayers for the departure of the gnats. They swarm and bite, annoy the people of Port Sulphur, and plaster the fronts of vehicles. In just 10 weeks, the weather has changed, the gnats have come out. And the people of Port Sulphur have continued to make great strides toward recovery.

    The church building at Port Sulphur Baptist has been framed and sheetrocked. The fellowship hall which was a mess of steel beams in December has now been repaired, roofed and closed in. The list that Pastor Martin had compiled of Plaquemines Parish residents still seeking a FEMA Trailer to move home continues to grow as he moves closer to receiving shipments of trailers from FEMA. Martin and Lynn are still receiving food from Second Harvest. The grant was extended, so they still have not paid for any of the 2,000,000 pounds of food they have distributed. The twice-weekly shipments total 20 tons of food and are distributed three times each week from Grace Harbour. Carlton's house has progressed immensely: the walls are up and the roof is on. And the grocery store is scheduled to open in just a few weeks.

    Yet much work still remains. Two from our group arrived early and visited Port Sulphur Baptist Church on Sunday morning for worship and noticed the church had no Bibles. Our team was able to donate some Bibles to the church, but they can still use more. [Order from CBD and have them shipped to the address above]. Pastor Lynn would like to give a Bible to each recipient of one of the sheds we built. Twenty-four sheds have been constructed, and the church has received a grant to build over 20 more. FEMA trailers have little space for storage, so a shed is a great commodity.

    We spent Thursday afternoon in New Orleans, which included a stop in the Ninth Ward. Most of the homes have been torn down and a new flood wall has been constructed. Rumor has it that Donald Trump wants to rebuild the Ninth Ward.

    The region has improved since December, but a lot needs to happen. Just off Interstate 59 in Mississippi sits a field full of FEMA trailers -- uninhabited. Why do thousands of FEMA trailers sit empty in a field when families throughout the Gulf Coast still do not have homes? The bureaucracy and red tape inhibit acquiring a trailer. Once last week I heard that a family had rebuilt their home and called FEMA to ask for their trailer to be removed. FEMA told them there was no record of the family having a trailer.

    The glamor of helping the Gulf Coast region has waned, yet the help is still needed. We can all help out.