October 29, 2008

G.K. Chesterton Hymn

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.

- Gilbert Keith Chesterton via

October 26, 2008

Counseilng Introverts

An interesting look at Introverts and Extroverts juxtaposed and counseling introverts.

Thriller A Cappella

Check out this video of a guy singing M. Jackson's Thriller A Cappella. He records his voice 64 times to get all the sounds, it's pretty neat.

François Macré - Thriller (reprise A'cappella 64 pistes)

Sacramental Mustang Update

I know it's been quite a while to say the least, but I found some motivation this weekend and decided (with the help of a friend) to replace the head gaskets on my 5.0 Mustang. This project has been alot about learning the hard way (screwing things up to be precise), so when I built the engine the first time I left out a crucial washer that steps the outside diameter of the head to the same size as the head stud.

Garrett, my local buddy, knew more about 5.0's then me so he helped replace the gaskets as well as set the roller rocker lash. Now Sacramental Mustang runs really good. I could tell as soon as I pulled out of the garage that I had much more power to the wheels. The only bad part is that the new gaskets didn't seem to fix my oil leak problem. I think I'll run it for a while and see if it's a seal that just needs to seal and oil up. (Maybe there'll be paint in the near future).

LIFE UPDATE: If you've made it this far, then I'd thought I'd let you in...we're moving! Yes, my wife and I are moving to a nice little rent house in a fun part of Austin. It helps that the house also sits rights across the street from the school Charlotte teaches at. So come this weekend, we're moving.

October 22, 2008

Free Roland Allen Books

What? One of the most important missiological thinkers and innovators has two books online for free...oh yeah baby!

The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church

Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours?

Update: brett g found Allen's journal online, thanks brett g!

October 16, 2008

My Sermons

I preached tonight at our alternative worship service. I broke it down into two shorter sermons. The first introduced the theme on loving your neighbor and the second is my rehashing of Matt. 25:31-46. Check them out below. I really enjoyed preaching these sermons. The night went well overall except for some minor technical difficulties. Worship was lead by the frontman of Austin's The Infinite Partials. Also, Ann created a great responsive reading from an Arundhati Roy's quote:

"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget."

Love is learning to see GOD in people

We all know what love is. Love is the central tenet of Christianity, the very ethic the church is built on. Love is the goal. You’ve probably recently been in a class, listened to a sermon, and even talked about the importance, and need for love.

For love is all the rage right now. We are to be a loving church. We are to love our spouses. Love is the remedy to the ills of our culture, to war, to hate, to racism. Love your friends, love your enemies. Love. Love. Love. Certainly if the Beatles sang about it then we must need it. We all know how good, how right, and how loving love is. For God so loved the world, love your neighbor, God loves you, Jesus loves you.

The fact is, we love to love love.

But enough with that nonsense.

Jesus boils down all the commands into two laws: love God and love your neighbor. But we like to take these commands and make them sequential. First I’ll learn to love God and spend all my time doing the things that I think are loving to God: spending time in church, praying, reading my Bible. Then I’ll learn to love my neighbor and maybe spend some time doing it.

So we often get bogged down in the steps of love, spending our time not in the actual doing of love, but in the study of it. For anyone who has made themselves vulnerable in love or sacrificed time and comfort for the sake of love knows that it’s much easier to talk about and ask questions who are neighbors are then to be a neighbor. We do this because the idea of love is much prettier and romantic then the reality.

I’ve seen this point more clearly in my own life recently. Charlotte and I thought for a while that we’d move to East Austin, so we could live a life of love where we resided. So we could live in a place of real need and share our lives with those different from us.

A few weeks ago we began looking for a new rent place. A couple times in our search we talked about being in a neighborhood with need, but in the end we found a place where the niceness of the rent home and the convenience of its location won out to any preconceived ideal we had. When it comes to the actual work of love, it seems life and reality get messy.

The reason I believe Jesus places these two commands together as he does, is because they are inseparable from one another.

I’ve heard it said that “the way we love others is the way we love God.” The writer of 1 Jn says that if “we say we love God , but hate our brothers and sisters then we are liars.” I like to reword Jesus’ commands to read:

"Love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as if they are all you have.”

We simply cannot separate our love for God and our love for others. There is simply no separation between love we get to study and think about and love we get to live out.

Jesus reveals this fact with a story in Matt. 25:31-46, where he tells about when he will return and judge the nations, including us. In this story, Jesus separated the crowd not based on what they believed about love, but how they practiced it. And in practicing love for the prisoner, the hungry, the poor, the outcast of their society, the sheep were actually practicing love toward God but didn’t even realize it.

By loving the most unlovable, the sheep were getting to know and spend time with their Creator, their redeemer, with Jesus himself.

Now I don’t mean for this sermon to be a guilt trip or to make us feel bad for how much we don’t love,
But rather awaken us to the truth that love lives not in our Sunday school rooms, but in our, offices, and jobs and classrooms;
not in our thoughts and dreams, but in our daily routines,
and not simply in our study but how we live towards our enemy.

If living out love were easy, then Christ had no need to die for the love’s sake, but exactly because God suffered and took on our burden, he has made the life of love a real possibility.

Matthew 25:31-46 Remixed: Martha the Goat, Mary the Sheep

Allow me to share this experience I had with a few weeks ago visiting Martha and Mary.

Now let me tell you, these two woman are from worlds separate. Martha a southern bell spent her entire life working in the ministry. Martha’s presence was like you would expect it to be, warm and welcoming. I found conversation with Martha easy for she knew the religious jargon well and could spin a story with the best of them.

Mary on the other hand, well, let’s just say she was a little rough around the edges. She spent most of her adult life working with people that our society had long ago forgotten.

When she coughed the entire room shook so hard that I thought an earthquake had hit. Direct and to the point, this northerner told me all about her life working with prostitutes, inmates, the homeless, HIV/AIDS victims, and the dying. Although uncomfortable in her presence, I was awestruck by her life and stories.

Now to the unbelievable part. I feel like I have to prepare you, because of what both of these women shared with me. Mary called it a parousia experience. Martha, being southerner said it was a par-oui-sia. Either way, both of them told me that, get this, Jesus had visited them.

While visiting Martha the minister, I would have never of guessed it though. Upon crossing the threshold into her home I was overwhelmed by this sense of darkness. The outside of her house was gorgeous, and the inside even more beautiful. Her kitchen table sat overwhelmed with a feast, untouched and unchanged since it had been set. Gray engulfed the entire home though.

I don’t remember her home being like that the first time I had visited her.

I found Martha’s demeanor morose. You would’ve never been able to tell she was surrounded by such beauty by the way she moped around, dragging her feet as if the entire world sat upon her shoulders

She told me that she was broken hearted, surrounded by such goodness but unable to enjoy it.

I myself was utterly confused,

“what happened” I investigated.

Apparently, a man came to visit her, and upon his arrival everything around and in her experienced a renewal. Martha herself was in rapture over it all, until the man came closer. She said she slightly recognized his face, “uncomely and dirty” she put it.

There was no placing it though, for all she knew, he could have been the street beggar she walked past every day on her way to church. He might have even been the child who she had given money to through a compassion ministry. The closer the man got to Martha, she said the more confused and uncomfortable she felt.

When the man finally spoke, the cloud was lifted from her eyes.
“Are you?” she muttered,
“I am.”

With those words, the realization sprung forth of who this man was. Martha’s head fell into her hands. She was ashamed she couldn’t recognize and in actuality felt at unease in the presence of the Son of Man. Her entire life devoted to understanding him, but never being with him it seems, so in the end, come to find out, she hardly knew Jesus.

She told me she struggled to find conversation and to even look at Jesus, because he felt like such a stranger to her, she told me she felt like,…I think it was… a goat or an ass.

I left Martha’s home overwhelmed with a sense of dread. It felt as if that place would have been better burnt to the ground then to sit in such hellish despair despite its beauty.

In the midst of trying to think through Martha’s story, I decided to go see Mary.

Her place too though, seemed oddly different. It was as if Extreme Makeover had taken Mary’s home and made it glorious. Unlike Martha’s, the door to Mary’s home was open so I just welcomed myself in.

I was taken a bit off guard by the party and the noise coming from the kitchen. People of all kinds sat around her table feasting on the bounty. One would have thought Thanksgiving had come early

Mary, in her direct way came over to me and simply told me, “he had come.”
“I’m sorry,” I retorted, “ who had come.”

“Well at first, I wasn’t sure. I thought it was Ed from down at the HIV clinic. Then I just knew it had to Jacky, my friend who lives underneath I35. But, I assure you, he wasn’t either, and he was both.”

She went on, “and as surely as you are confused by that, well, I know it was Jesus. “

“When I first saw him, I started making all kinds of noise thinking I was yelling out to one of my friends, but the closer he got the more I felt like I knew him, but not quite. You know I had seen and talked to him everyday on the streets of this city, so when he told me his name was Jesus, well I just figured that it was Jacky…see because she thinks she’s the Messiah.”

“You should have seen us, there I was talking to about 4 different people I thought I knew from off the streets and just couldn’t place it…and there Jesus was trying to convince me that he wasn’t really any of those people, and yet he was.”

Well, it wasn’t until I realized that I hadn’t coughed since the man showed up, that I began to notice what had happened. See, these old bones and this old house took on a new life. And with that revelation, well, I just believed. Jesus had visited me.”

I myself, still don’t know what to think of all this, but I do wonder if I would recognize the face of God if he begged for my attention.

October 12, 2008

The Unfairness of Death & Grace, a Funeral Eulogy

Today, we come to celebrate, grieve, and remember a family member, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and a simple man, T___.

Although I knew T___ little apart from our family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve learned in the past week that he was an ordinary guy who would loved an ordinary game, baseball much like his own nephews he used to love to play as a child. And his joy was found in the most common situation of owning his own home and caring for his garden and little or not so little dogs. But he was also willing to do the extraordinary, to give his shirt of his back, to be a friend and father like figure for some.

Some us here are filled with memories of T___, and those that he spent his time with remember his jokes, his laugh, his gentle touch, a genuine relationship. Others here are filled with smaller memories of his presence, his smile, or for myself, buying a flannel T-shirt for him for Christmas for the last 20 years, or so it seems.

One of life’s gifts is that we get the opportunity for our inner selves, our souls to be filled by others.

It seems as a child that we are born with the whole world before us, so much to learn, so many people to meet, a family to grow into.
And so we grow up and are filled with memories, filled with the joy of relationships, filled with the love of our children, our parents, our uncles, our aunts, and our families. We grow up to being filled and made full.

But there exists in life this paradox, that as we grow up and are filled, we experience unfairness, unfairness that seems to shortchange our being filled with life and love. Certainly, in a time of loss such as this we are reminded that although one’s life may have filled us with joy and memories, we are also left with holes.

And this is why death is unfair, we miss our chances to be filled completely.

Today, we are grieving more then just the loss of a family member, but we are also grieving the missed chances to be with and get to love T___ better. We are saddened and angered by the fact that we’ll never get to offer a helping hand again, we’ll never get to tell T___ we love him, forgive him, we’ll never get the opportunity to know him better or invite him over for lunch, or watch a Cowboys game together again.

While we are filled with the presence, and memories of T___, we are also left with the unfairness of what we didn’t have with him. Death is unfair. It is unfair that those J___, D___, and those closest to him have lost a friend at the age of 55, it is unfair that the hospital couldn’t do all that we would have liked, it is unfair that we have a family member who we could and should have been closer to, but weren’t.

But while there is this tension in life of being filled and being left unfilled; there is also this strange tension between the unfairness of death and the unfairness of hope that God offers us.
On the heels of his journey to the cross, Jesus stops along the roadside with a huge crowd gathered around. In this crowd were people of all different kinds and types, from the poorest and unrighteous, to the rich and priestly.

And as usual, Jesus takes the norms of the day and flips them on their head, revealing how unfair God’s grace and hope really are for us in this world. Unfair because Jesus opened the doors to everyone.

In Matt 19 & 21 there are 3 stories the Gospel writer uses to show the unfairness of grace that Jesus always taught about. These 3 stories work like a sandwich with 2 outer slices of bread supporting the inner meat and cheese.

The first slice comes at the end of Matt. 19, there’s this story: popularly titled the “rich young ruler,” where Jesus takes a fair and normal teaching and flips it. See in that day, if a person was rich it meant that they were blessed so of course they’d be first in God’s kingdom, I wonder if we don’t sometimes think this way still.

But Jesus shows how ridiculous this folk wisdom is by making a ridiculous comment about how its easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

This statement is of course confusing to his disciples because it seems so unfair, so they ask if a rich person can’t be saved, then who can. If the person who they thought for sure was in, but wasn’t then who could be. And Jesus answers saying, “with God all things are possible.” “With God all things are possible.” Its by God’s hand that we enter into any kind of healing, it by God’s sacrifice and broken body that we are made whole, and it is by God’s grace that we live fully.
The other piece of bread to this sandwich is a story about two of Jesus’ disciples who are vying for power. They want so much to have the highest place of authority when Jesus rules, they ask their mom to ask Jesus to be made number two and three. Immediately Jesus flips what real authority and power are. “For in this world,” Jesus says, “people ruler over others with authority and manipulation, but in God’s kingdom it is the servants who are the leaders. As Jesus says, “the first shall be last, and the last first.”

The meat and cheese of these 3 stories is an incredibly offensive parable that Jesus tells. It’s a story that defies not only his crowd’s sense of fairness, but our own modern day sense of what is fair. In this parable, the landowner goes and hires workers all throughout the day, hiring the first crew in the morning, then another crew around lunch, and a few other crews all throughout the day up until a few hours before its quitting time.

Seems harmless. Certainly hiring workers who need work is fair. Fairness in this culture and our own, always means that those who worked the longest get the most pay. The first will get the most, the last the least.

But in this story, the landowner pays everyone the same amount: one day’s wages. So no matter where the workers were at, no matter how far ahead they thought they were or how far behind, the landowner’s generosity shocks the idea of fairness. “For the first shall be last, and the last first.”

Paul writes that nothing can separate us from God’s love, he even goes as far to write a poem about the unfairness of death in light of the unfairness of God’s grace and he says, “O Death, where is your sting!” The sting of sin is death, but thanks be to God who gives us victory through Jesus Christ.”

For what Paul and Jesus knew is that in God’s kingdom, the shadow that overcasts itself in death and leaves us with unfulfilled wishes for a family member, the unreconciled relationship, the holes we are all left with whether we are grieving not only what we had in T___, but also what we didn’t have:

That in God’s kingdom, we find Christ’s light bursting through the shadow. The holes left by the unfairness of death, filled by the unfairness of God’s grace, hope, and love.

So, here we are, left full of memories of T___, full of his love for us, full of our love for him and one another, but left with the holes from the injury of his death. It is not only normal, but good for us to cry, to be angry, to live in this brokenness, but it is not good for us to continue living this way among one another when God offers such love that not only may he, but Christ can heal our anger, Christ can forgive where we can’t, Christ can offer hope to the situations we cant.
So today, I hope we remember T___, and in remembering both what we had and didn’t have and will can never have, that in light of God’s unfair grace offered to anyone, that we take the time to be unfair to one another.

Be unfair in your love. Be unfair in your forgiveness. Life is too short to keep living in the light of what could have been, life is to grand to not offer a relationship to those we don’t spent as much time as we’d like.

In the midst of our grief, in the valley of our anger, in this broken place, it may not seem that love can conquer; but this is exactly the paradox. Grace, hope, and love in God’s kingdom are unfair: made available to anyone no matter how deserving or undeserving we think they or we are.

Thus, I pray that you will allow these tensions to work themselves out. And May you allow the unfairness of love, conquer the unfairness of death.

October 10, 2008


An amazing real time simulation of CO2 & death/birth rates of all countries.

This site is worth your time.

October 5, 2008

Toy Story Dark Knight Trailer

World Communion Sunday

This morning, churches across the world celebrated communion as part of World Communion Sunday. I love this symbol and idea that Christians gather not around dogma and doctrine, likeness and homogeneity, but the broken body and blood of our servant and Lord.

I had the opportunity this morning to share with my faith community, a new way of envisioning the elements and ritual of the Lord's Supper. While in India this summer, we practiced communion using a very Hindu/Indian form: the coconut. The use of the coconut by Hindu Christ followers comes from a Hindu practice of sacrifice, where a person takes a coconut to a Brahman at a temple where it is broken for that persons sins. Also, not only is bread and wine a foreign element, but pretty scarce.

So this morning, I took a coconut and broke it open during worship. The imagery brought a fresh and engaging perspective to a very important ritual within the church. The rough outer skin representing not only the human form that Christ took on in his descension from heaven, but also the sin and brokenness of the world that he took on when nailed to the cross. Then I took a hammer and with some loud cracks to the coconut, the milk poured out into a bowl, representing the shed blood.

This is such a powerful image and a great way to re-envision communion.

With that I leave you with a clip from Arandhna, contextual sitar musicians we met at the ReThinking Forum before heading to India.

October 3, 2008

VP Debate Follow Up

I thought both candidates did a good job of holding their own. I was pretty frustrated with how Palin came across with many of her answers. She often side stepped a direct question with a different answer to an unrelated question...seemed sort of canned to me.

Also, Biden came across as one who has spent one too many times debating on the Senate floor. This isn't necessarily bad, but when your opponent's main appeal is "hockey mom America" then you can be cerebral.

Anyways, here's the FactCheck sheet on last night's debate. Check out the site for the full analysis.

Biden and Palin debated, and both mangled some facts.
  • Palin mistakenly claimed that troop levels in Iraq had returned to “pre-surge” levels. Levels are gradually coming down but current plans would have levels higher than pre-surge numbers through early next year, at least.
  • Biden incorrectly said “John McCain voted the exact same way” as Obama on a controversial troop funding bill. The two were actually on opposite sides.

  • Palin repeated a false claim that Obama once voted in favor of higher taxes on “families” making as little as $42,000 a year. He did not. The budget bill in question called for an increase only on singles making that amount, but a family of four would not have been affected unless they made at least $90,000 a year.
  • Biden wrongly claimed that McCain “voted the exact same way” as Obama on the budget bill that contained an increase on singles making as little as $42,000 a year. McCain voted against it. Biden was referring to an amendment that didn't address taxes at that income level.
  • Palin claimed McCain’s health care plan would be “budget neutral,” costing the government nothing. Independent budget experts estimate McCain's plan would cost tens of billions each year, though details are too fuzzy to allow for exact estimates.

  • Biden wrongly claimed that McCain had said "he wouldn't even sit down" with the government of Spain. Actually, McCain didn't reject a meeting, but simply refused to commit himself one way or the other during an interview.
  • Palin wrongly claimed that “millions of small businesses” would see tax increases under Obama’s tax proposals. At most, several hundred thousand business owners would see increases.
For full details on these misstatements, and on additional factual disputes and dubious claims, please read on to the Analysis section."