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?