Sep 10, 2012

Hymns and the Anti-Genre

Last Sunday at Hillcrest I decided to use all hymns for the music portion of our worship service, at the suggestion of an elderly lady in our congregation.  I was happy to oblige, not just because it was a great idea, but because I was thrilled that somebody actually had an idea/suggestion/input regarding their worship service.  (In over a year of doing this, this is the first time anybody has suggested anything.)

In short, it was really good.  The songs were more-or-less traditional arrangements with an acoustic guitar, piano, bass, and a female lead vocalist.  People were singing (which is a pretty big deal here at Hillcrest!), clapping, and smiling.  I had fun playing the music, as well as preparing it during the week.

This whole experience got me thinking, What exactly is a hymn, anyway?  Why is it that we can automatically differentiate a song as being either hymn or not a hymn?  And why does EVERYBODY have an opinion regarding hymns?

According to Wikipedia the definition of the word "hymn" can vary depending on the time period and/or religion one is referring to.  But when I boil it down, I would define a hymn as basically any liturgical music written before the 1960's.  Before this time, what we know as "hymns" was all that existed as far as liturgical music goes.  With the rise of rock 'n roll in the 50's people started writing their own music, and in the case of the Jesus Movement of the 60's, their own liturgical music.

As a gross generalization, people (especially Americans) are afraid of change.  This was the first strike against non-hymns: People simply weren't used to them.  Silly?  Yes.  But this fear still lingers in people alive today who were raised in that time period.

During the 1960's new "praise choruses" were introduced via the Jesus Movement, which borrowed tones and stylistic cues from the supposedly devil-inspired rock 'n roll music.  This was the second strike against non-hymns, albeit a subjective one.

The last strike against non-hymns, however, is a legitimate one: At the time of their inception, the lyrics were largely shallow, offering little more than a feel-good experience of happy praise.

Although they may have been flawed in their infancy, I feel that post-hymn* music has come a long way since the 60's, both in style and lyrical depth.  There's no reason to dismiss all non-hymns as being shallow anymore.  There are definitely specific songs that are worthy of such criticism, but as a generalization it just doesn't apply anymore.

At the same time, many hymns are very appropriate to use today, and in fact would be sorely missed by myself and others if they were disregarded simply because of their difference to modern music.  In fact, most hymns, when you strip them down to their most basic chords and rhythms, are ripe for rearranging and bringing to new life.  (Just because the old lady playing the organ at your Grandma's church doesn't know how to make Just As I Am sound good doesn't mean that the song itself isn't good!)

For worship leaders, there's a lot of music to pick from these days, but there is simply no way to please everybody.  So quit trying.  Choose songs that are appropriate for your congregation and your situation.  If you like the lyrics of a certain hymn, but don't know how to make it sound good, there are plenty of artists out there who will let you copy them--I do it all the time!  Or, if you think a certain song is shallow and lacking lyrical substance, simply don't use it.  But don't say that such-and-such style is all bad, or such-and-such time period is irrelevant.

In short, look for your anti-genre.  Strive for lyrics that are honest and a sound that transcends style, rather than caters to one.

*See what I did there?  I made myself look smart buy putting the prefix "post-" onto something church-related.  Boom roasted.

Jun 11, 2012

Life of the eternal

People (Christians) talk a lot about "eternal life".  Some think that it means the literal English definition: never-ending.   Others talk about it as being outside of the space-time continuum: Something beyond never-ending and more like transcending time.  Either way, it usually is described as something that happens in the future, someday, after death... then.

I don't care about life after death.  I care about life now, because Jesus cared about life now.  The phrase "eternal life" as used all throughout the Bible did not mean never-ending, as in a distance of time with no beginning and no end.  As Pope Benedict XVI described, that would be quite miserable.  The prophets, Jesus, and the disciples talked about a better way of life in this world.  There's the way things are now, and the way things are going to be.  There's this age, and the age to come.  There is pain, and there is redemption.  There is death, and there is life.

But even more convincing to me than all this rhetoric is what we can actually experience as little glimpses of "life of the eternal":

That feeling of losing track of time when you're doing something you enjoy.

The total loss of physiological awareness when you're immersed in something you're passionate about. 

Those moments when you just know that the thing you're doing is so right that you feel outside of your body, unaware of hunger, thirst, time, or that pile of bills on the kitchen table.

Some people call it "being in the zone".

I call it eternal life.

Apr 15, 2012

Too Difficult to Copy

In the age of paperless social networking, the value of ideas is taking over the value of tangible goods.  A book is no longer a paper book, it's a file on your Kindle.  An album is no longer a CD, it's an mp3 file.  I like to compare these "idea-products" to wind--they definitely exist, but have no tangible manifestation except in the minds of their creator(s).  And if they do happen to have a tangible manifestation (i.e., a book) it's the idea within the writing that people care about, not the paper and ink. 

In the past, it was easy to seemingly regulate the "ownership" of ideas, because ideas weren't recognized as existing until they were converted from "idea-form" into "tangible-form".  Hence, copy-write laws were born, and they were easy to enforce.  If you're a car company, you can't name your car a Camry.  If your a musician, you can't cover somebody else's song and call it your own.

The fashion industry, however, has always been in a different boat regarding copy write laws.  A precedent was set in the courts long ago that said articles of clothing cannot be copy-written (except for their logos) because articles of clothing are too "utilitarian" to copy-write, meaning that they purely serve a funtion, not an expression of an idea (other than the idea of not being naked all the time).

Of course, we all know this is not true.  Clothing is an expression of one's self.  Nonetheless, the precedent was set and never overturned.

In her TED talk, culture- and media-guru Johanna Blakley argues that the fashion industry's lack of copy-write protection (which you don't necessarilly need to invest the 20 minutes in to get my point), is actually a good thing in terms of creative work:

The point of copy write laws is to protect people from having their ideas stolen, and--here is where copy write laws fail tremendously--to supposedly increase creative processes in the free market by way of "not allowing" people to copy each other.  However, three problem arise:

  • 1.  It doesn't work.  The beauracracy necessary is totally unmanagable.  It is impossible to capture the wind.  Which brings me to...
  • 2.  It's not possible.  The nature of an idea is such that it is impossible to own*, yet parodoxically it is incredibally easy to trace its origin.  To deny the knowledge of an idea's origin is always a lie.  Therefore...
  • 3.  It is simply not necessary to protect ideas.  Ideas protect themselves.  If somebody copies somebody else, everybody knows it.

This is proven in the fashion industry.  Top designers' designs are always being knocked-off (they're actually called knock-offs!), but the catch is that the people who buy the $20 knock-off shoes never would have bought the original $500 shoes in the first place, so nobody is losing anything.

"But what about the designer recieving credit for their designs?" you might ask.  The designer does recieve credit--where it matters.  Among the culture of people who buy the $500 orignals, and the stores that sell them, they definately get credit, not to mention money.  Do they really care if the consumer who bought the knock-offs knows they're buying knock-offs?  No, because they wouldn't have bought the original anyway.  If anything, the existance of the knock-off is good for the designer.

"But don't copy write laws cause designers, artists, etc. to strive to create better, more original ideas?"  No.  When imitation is allowed, as is proven in the fashion industry, it forces you to create something that is, in Blakely's words, "too difficult to copy".  Take TV's The Office for example.  You can walk around all day acting like Micheal Scott, or looking at an imaginary camera every time somebody does something stupid like Jim Halpert, or ironically re-inventing yourself like Ryan Howard... You're not going to be funny.  The brilliance of a show like The Office is that its humor only works in the context of The Office.  It cannot be copied.

The same could be said about music:  I could rip off so-and-so's guitar riff, melody, and drum beat and put it in a song, but everybody is going to know it.  Actually, people do this all the time!  They write dime-a-dozen pop songs and follow the same formula that every song that's ever been loved by non-music-lovers has ever followed--and they might even get airplay on radio, a top-40 hit, etc.  But it won't have lasting success, nor will it have a substantial impact on anybody.  It's just going to come and go.  It's not going to be loved by music lovers--it's just going to be "loved" by people who aren't paying attention to it, and people who can make a profit from it.

Copywrite laws, contrary to popular belief, are a hindrance to creative thinking.  They inhibit trends, and therefore possibilities. All creative processes can benefit from people copying one another.

*Did you know that Subway actually tried to copy-write the word "footlong"?

Apr 5, 2012

The Cross: Cause and Effect

I still have one more installment of my review of Peter Rollins' Insurrection in the works, but in the meantime, here's a little change of pace.

In light of the approaching Good Friday, and planning the special Good Friday worship service at Hillcrest, I have been thinking (a little more than usual) about the crucifixion, resurrection, redemption, and what these things really mean.  But rather than finding any sort of meaning--which, if you've been reading here for any amount of time, shouldn't surprise you--it seems that in every season of life, the redemption story evolves rather than resolves.  As usual, its essence morphs into something new, fresh, and full of even more life (rather than "meaning") than previously realized.  It truly is a living, breathing narrative.

A few months ago I read Richard Rohr's The Naked Now.  Then, a couple weeks later, I read it again, and have since started reading his blog.  This post about the crucifixion goes right in line with The Naked Now in offering a different way to see the Crucifixion (and the redemption narrative) much like Peter Rollins' Insurrection.

Our Western minds want to view everything in a strict "cause and effect" mindset, also known as "instrumental thinking."  In terms of understanding the crucifixion, we want there to be a cause and effect for Christ's death.  Then, we want that effect to become a cause for some other effect.  The spiral (if we're honest) goes something like this:

Cause:  I sin.
Effect:  Christ dies.
Cause:  Christ dies.
Effect:  I am forgiven (but I still feel guilty).
Cause:  I am obligated to be grateful.
Effect:  Nothing really changes.

I believe that the all-too-common phrase "Christ died for our sins" is a big cause (eh hem) of this efficient causation mindset.  What if we changed the word "for" with the word "with"?

Christ died with our sin.

Now, I am part of the crucifixion.  All of myself, including my shadow-self, is participating in the redemption narrative.  As Rohr says, "now life and death are both good."

Feb 22, 2012

Insurrection Ch. 5 & 6: Participation Creates Reality

This is my continuing "review" of Peter Rollins' book Insurrection, although I'm really writing with a mixture of review, summation, and personal reflection. In short, these writings are more a way for myself to work through what this all means, rather than a "review" per say, or my trying to convince anyone else of these ideas. Additionally, please note that my beliefs expressed here may not necessarily coincide perfectly with Rollins'.  You can view the previous installments in previous posts below.
Beliefs are important, but the comforting powers of beliefs need to be rejected.  Those comforting powers lie in the way that beliefs ease our anxieties, i.e., the way they satisfy our psychological need for God to exist.

The real event of the cross is not that some great injustice was done, or that an innocent man was killed, but rather that God as a psychological crutch dies.  There's more than just a feeling of God not being present--God actually is not present.  There is forsakenness of any divine figure, and then nothingness.  Every sense of certainty, identity, and order are drained of all operative power, and we are left naked.  There is an experienced loss of all meaning (existential atheism); the very foundation we've built our lives on is ripped away.

"The cross is the moment when we join with Christ in crying out, 'Why have you forsaken me?'" (p. 82.)  Religion is buried.

Anxieties are different than fear, in that fear has an object, but anxiety does not.  Fear is being scared of something, e.g., spiders.  Anxiety, however, has no object.  It is "a response to the foreboding shadow of nothingness itself."  (p. 83.)  As creatures who have a hardwired psychological need to believe, nothingness is the worst thing of all.  That's what makes Crucifixion so hard to truly participate in.  Anxiety is pure despair, with nothing but nothingness looking back at us.

Religion is what happens when we abuse our psychological need for God--when we believe in a constructed God in order to get relief from these anxieties.  The anxiety of death is avoided by believing in eternal life.  The anxiety of meaninglessness is avoided by believing that God is in control of, or at least aware of, everything.  And the anxiety of guilt is overcome by constructing and embracing a narrative of one's "personal life" to represent the truth of who a person really is, as opposed to the desires that drive one's actions.

That last part--the gap between our personal lives and true selves--is the majority of Chapter 5.  Rollins explores how we like to think that our personal lives (beliefs) are what really matter, and that we compensate for this shortcoming by trying to make our actions live up to our beliefs, i.e., "live out" our faith.  But the problem here is that our actions don't fall short of our beliefs--they ARE our beliefs.

Rollins' example of Hitler is a succinct way to describe this.  Hitler had an immaculate personal life--one that many of us would find admirable.  He didn't touch alcohol, he loves children, he was an aficionado of the arts and culture.  But the funny thing is, this narrative of personal piety that Hitler wrote into his life scares us, because it reveals to us that our own highly-prized personal lives can't possibly reflect the truth of who we are, since we know that this is not the truth of who Hitler was.

Furthermore, it is made clear that attempting to extinguish this gap between our beliefs (personal life) and actions (public life) only serves to affirm it.  The gap itself doesn't actually exist--we only tell ourselves that it exists, because then we can say that we at least have a good belief system, no matter how often our actions fail to "live up" to it, as if our actions are subject to something other than our beliefs.  In reality, however, our practices do not fall short of our beliefs, but our practices are our beliefs.

Christianity by-and-large has become a mode for us to both exacerbate this gap and avoid our anxieties of death, meaninglessness, and guilt.  Intellectual affirmation has been prized over life itself, convincing us that we are what we believe, and that our actions are somehow separate from those beliefs.  "The life of faith becomes a crutch," Rollins says, "and the Crucifixion becomes nothing more than a mythology we pay lip service to."  (p. 107.)  There's not an "outer world" that needs to be brought in line with some "inner world," for the very act of trying to align these "worlds" acts as a barrier to real, radical transformation.

But there's good news too.  The Crucifixion is where we actually confront our anxieties.  Then, resurrection can happen.  But Resurrection is not an "answer" or a "solution" to crucifixion--To truly live in a state of Resurrection means to be willing to undergo Crucifixion again, and again, and again.  This willingness is called Incarnation:  A way of living called Love (or God) in which we experience the world as worth living for.  It is an embrace of humanity, rather than a God "up there."

We don't live this way because God loves the world... We live this way, and that is God loving the world.  (How's that for a theological understanding of God?)  The highest truth is not to be loved, or give love, but love itself.  Belief in God, then, has nothing to do with a supreme being, but rather an embrace of humanity.

True affirmation of God is the material practice of love.  We become creators of destiny, rather than slaves to the idea that "everything happens for a reason" (deus ex machina).  We participate in the creation of the eternal itself.  Participation creates reality.

Feb 17, 2012

Insurrection: Chapters 3 & 4: A monologue

This is my continuing "review" of Peter Rollins' book Insurrection, although I'm really writing with a mixture of review, summation, and personal reflection. In short, these writings are more a way for myself to work through what this all means, rather than a "review" per say, or my trying to convince anyone else of these ideas. Additionally, please note that my beliefs expressed here may not necessarily coincide perfectly with Rollins'. View the first installment here and the second here.
In reading chapters 3 and 4 of Peter Rollins' Insurrection, I feel like I'm finally getting to what might be considered a thesis statement for the first half of this book, entitled Part 1: Crucifixion:

"It is possible for people to believe there is an ultimate meaning in the universe without being religious at all--that is, people do not use this belief in order to avoid a full confrontation with their humanity. It is a belief that they can calmly discuss over a drink and which they are happy to rethink. Such people have a reasoned and healthy belief that does not need to be passionately defended against those who disagree." (pp.61-62, emphasis added.)

In an attempt to describe the means by which this thesis was arrived (whereby I wrote in the margins of my copy, "THE POINT!"), I have written an internal monologue that could be used to describe the ironic methods by which many Christians today arrive at a place of "rejecting religion":

"I'm not religious, I just follow God, which offers me the psychological benefits of religion while still allowing me to play the part of rejecting religion. I intellectually affirm the crucifixion, but I don't want to bear the wounds that it leaves. My relationship with God takes the place of my honest confrontation of life.

"I intellectually affirm Christ's forsakenness on the Cross, but I still want sermons that give me answers, songs that give me peace-of-mind, and prayers that tell me it's all going to be OK. That certainty is more important to me than the possibility that that universe might be random and there's not a goddamn thing I can do about it. Even though I say God is not a cosmic vending machine of peace and love and happiness, I want the church to treat God like a machine so that I can use it as a security blanket, allowing me to accept the circumstances that should beget suffering instead of allowing those circumstance to cause me to suffer.

"I affirm doubt and uncertainty as a part of faith... So long as I know with absolute certainty that God is bigger than my doubts. Then I can doubt with absolute certainty."
That's the funny thing about the essence of religion. It's seemingly unavoidable. It's a "psychological phenomenon" (p. 61). Religion is not, and never has been, and never will be, on the decline. It's just doing what it always has done: Taking on a new shape to make it harder to identify, akin to a flu virus.

So what's the point of it all then? Why go to church? Why be a Christian? Is it even possible for these things to be good, or at least honest?

Yes, I believe it is. The essence of Christianity is in the experience of suffering. The essence of religion is the avoidance of suffering.

If it's all about experience, then are beliefs futile? No, as long as they are not a crutch to prevent embracing the world (suffering), and as long as they are not a security blanket (a structure of certainty).

Christ affirmed his belief in God. But he also experienced the loss of his belief's comforting power.

Feb 16, 2012

Insurrection: When Crucifixion Became a Myth

This is my continuing "review" of Peter Rollins' book Insurrection, although I'm really writing with a mixture of review, summation, and personal reflection. In short, these writings are more a way for myself to work through what this all means, rather than a "review" per say, or my trying to convince anyone else of these ideas. Additionally, please note that my beliefs expressed here may not necessarily coincide perfectly with Rollins'. View the first installment here.
Belief in God is perfectly human--life is hard, full of suffering and bitterness, and we have a natural desire to bring to it order, meaning, and something other than randomness. This is the essence of our psychological need for God to exist. However, religion today is most commonly understood with a deus ex machina mindset: It is the affirmation of a constructed source of explanation, meaningfulness, and solutions to our problems--a.k.a. God.

By rejecting God, one is usually labeled an atheist. But can you really blame a person for being an atheist? Doesn't a God who only exists to satisfy me sound a little feeble? Yes, it does. But that doesn't make me an atheist. In fact, Rollins is going so far as to say that accepting atheism is the only way one is able to participate in Crucifixion. And I agree.

So, the questions now are "What is crucifixion?" and "What is atheism?"

Is crucifixion God sacrificing His son for us? Is it reconciliation for our sins? Does it put us in good standing with God? Is it something that was done for us by which we define ourselves, rather than defining ourselves by what we do?

Is atheism the intellectual denial of the existence of God?

Defining both of them is the only way to define either of them, because experiencing both of them is the only way to experience either of them: Crucifixion is existential atheism--a real, experienced, and felt loss of God. It is undeniable. It is the sacrifice of everything that satisfies our psychological need for God, which is, of course, God.

When religions talk about giving up false gods, they usually mean giving up anything that one worships other than God (e.g., money, cars, Xbox). But what about worshiping dues ex machina? Isn't this "God of the machine" just replacing these (equally) false gods?

In fact, religion usually tells us to give up false gods so that we can find true meaning, purpose, security, and ultimate reality in God-with-a-capital-G. But what about giving up false gods by engaging in existential atheism--In other words, giving up everything that satisfies our desire for God? What about giving up everything including God? What about giving up everything that comes after the phrase "so that"? No one ever talks about giving up that God.

But giving up this God is what Crucifixion truly is.

The church has domesticated the crucifixion into a mythology--a story that brings meaning into meaninglessness. Yes, we affirm that it actually historically happened. But we also look at it with a dirty lens muddied up by the "what does it mean for me?" mindset. Therefore, no sacrifice was actually made. Again, it is simply a deus ex machina.

This is why Christ's words "Why have You forsaken me?" are so wrought with meaning, and yet meaninglessness. Contrary to popular belief, he wasn't crying out to God in the midst of suffering--No, he was suffering in the midst of his utter loss of God.

And the beauty, as well as the horror, of it is that we can participate in it too. We no longer are a slave to our psychological need for God. We can simply enjoy the grace that is the fact that our need exists, much like our taste buds make our need for food enjoyable.

"When we truly participate in the event of the Cross, we are forsaken by ourselves--We are cut off from the system that we construct and which constructs us." (p. 35) There is nothing but our naked self. Nothing but pure purity.

Edited on 2/17/12 at 3:28pm.

Feb 15, 2012

Insurrection: God as deus ex machina, or, The Need to Need God

In my proceeding reviews of Peter Rollins' book Insurrection, I will be writing with a mixture of review, summation, and personal reflection. In short, these writings are more a way for myself to work through what this all means, rather than a "review" per se, or my trying to convince anyone else of these ideas. Additionally, please note that my beliefs expressed here may not necessarily coincide perfectly with Rollins'. And lastly, I fully understand that my having a blog does NOT automatically make me a writer. (You know who you are.) Ok, here we go...
Shane Hipps once humorously described the human taste buds as one of the greatest forms of grace: We need to eat to survive, and we have been graced with the fact that eating is an enjoyable endeavor... Hallelujah! Funny as it is, this alliteration of grace should be taken very seriously: We have a psychological desire to eat, which is the reflection of our need to eat, which is an evolutionary advantage to the continuation of our species.

I was reminded of this while reading the first chapter of Peter Rollins' book Insurrection, entitled I'm a Christian! I'm a Christian! Rollins starts off this book by quite simply rejecting the notion of God as we know it. And I don't mean the easy-to-reject notions of God, such as the 'reject religion, embrace Jesus' kind of stuff, but actually reducing our claimed existence of God to a psychological need.

C.S. Lewis made famous his argument for the existence of God by saying that we could no more invent or imagine God than we could invent a new color. On the other hand, Voltaire said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."

I used to cling to Lewis' idea. But now, I'm with Voltaire.

Rollins opens with a description of our human psychological need for others. In short, we don't simply desire others, but we desire others to desire us. This results in relationships.


But on a more subtle level, it also results in an imagined desire of others for us. This manifests in the form of fantasies. In our world of internal monologue, we are never alone--someone is always watching us. When we "dance like nobody's watching" we're really imagining people watching us, or for that matter, literally dancing in front of other people. When I'm working on my motorcycle and solving a mechanical problem, I'm imagining my dad watching me (and being impressed!). We are always "being watched." Even our fantasies involve relationships

So it is clear that we desire love from others, with evidence of this both in our tangible experiences and our fantasies. But unfortunately, our fantasies quickly become unsatisfying, and our relationships ultimately prove imperfect and conditional. Sadly, our needs are never really met. So what happens now?

The solution is to construct a source of unconditional love and desire. This is what we call God.

The next step is to convince ourselves and others that God was not constructed by us: a process commonly known as evangelism. There's basically three ways to do this:
  1. Physical force. Examples are the Inquisition, the Crusades, etc. Not much of this really exists in the developed world anymore.
  2. Psychological coercion. This is when a person is made to verbally admit their need for God, although no actual belief exists, such as people who "accept Christ" to avoid going to hell. Again, this doesn't really happen anymore, accept maybe with small children.
  3. Rationalization. This is what does happen in churches today. Rationalization simply means to convince oneself of a belief one already holds, or to look for evidence supporting a belief that has already been accepted without evidence. Knowing that people (perhaps unknowingly) already have the aforementioned psychological need for God, preachers simply remind congregants of their desire for unconditional love and for their life not to be meaningless, and then offer a solution via God. Now, the potential convert has found the evidence they were sub-consciously searching for, and convinces them self (i.e., rationalizes) that God exists and desires a relationship with humans offering unconditional love.
Therefore, getting people to believe in God is very easy. In fact, it is no different than getting a child to believe in Santa Claus. And getting others to believe creates community, relationships, and love, so not only does God solve our psychological need for God, God also solves our need for others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this the deus ex machina--God out of the machine--a term that was coined by critics of ancient Greek theater to describe terrible playwrights who used God as a character to divinely make the plot do whatever they wanted. (We see this today in TV where characters are "killed off" because the actor is leaving.) God is a way to solve a problem.

Today, we call this philosophy. Philosophy, when honestly evaluated, is the necessary search for evidence of God because we have already decided to believe that he exists due our psychological need. At the pinnacle of this discipline are questions like "Why does God allow suffering and evil in the world?" and other irrelevant theodicy. It's just a feeble attempt to help us cope with life--a solution to a problem, but not a means of changing the world.

So it seems that rejecting our psychological need for God--much like rejecting one's taste buds and therefore avoiding junk food--is the only honest way to live a happy and healthy life. Our psychological need for God is an immature emotion that needs to be dealt with and overcome.

Yikes. Is this atheism?

Sounds more like Crucifixion to me.


Having just read Peter Rollins' book Insurrection, I don't even know where to begin in trying to express how this book has affected my beliefs and, hopefully, my actions as a human being. There are so many ideas that I want to throw out right now, but I believe a more methodical approach may be required, as the various ideas in the book build upon each other.

As Rob Bell said so accurately, the book "pushes you off a cliff," and although I do feel like I'm flying more than falling, I still feel the need to re-read this book and record my thoughts chapter by chapter in an effort to more perfectly shape my wings.

I first witnessed the antics of Peter Rollins in the summer of 2009 at a conference hosted by Mars Hill Bible Church (a.k.a. "the Mars Hill in Michigan") called Poets, Prophets, and Preachers, and later in various podcasts, and more recently with his books. He has been saying things that resonate with my soul at a frequency I didn't know how to hear before.

But this book took it to another level. Subsequent posts will be chapter-by-chapter synopses, thoughts, reactions, and feeble attempts to get my guts back into my torso.

Feb 6, 2012

A Parable, 2

There was a well-known pastor who frequently asked his church members, "Did you pray today?" Knowing this question was coming, the church members always made sure they had said a prayer on days they would be seeing their pastor.

"Yes!" they would say. "Today I prayed for so-and-so to come to know Christ!" Or, "Yes! Today I prayed for my brother, who is recovering from surgery in the hospital!"

One Sunday morning, a homeless man wondered into the church. The pastor, seeing the homeless man from across the room, was quick to take the opportunity to welcome him into his church--especially since all the churchgoers were watching.

After saying hello and introducing himself, the pastor leaned in close and asked the homeless man, "Did you pray today?"

The homeless man leaned in even closer. "Prayer happened," he whispered, "and I was there."


Inspired by Richard Rohr's The Naked Now.

Jan 27, 2012

A Parable

There was once an elderly man who loved bird-watching. He knew every bird he happened upon, and he had an ongoing checklist of birds he wanted to see before he died. He never went anywhere without his binoculars, bird-watching field-guide, and a meticulous itinerary of birds he wanted to see. He was a member of a local birdwatching club, as well as a national association of bird-watchers. He went to conventions. He started sticky-threads on bird-watching forums.

One day, the man wanted to take his 8-year-old grandson out into the field with him. He longed to share his experience with his grandson, hoping his grandson would enjoy it. Also, he hoped to spot one of the seasonal species and he had read about being seen recently in this area.

While carousing the field with his grandson, the man went on and on about his knowledge of birds, talking about all the birds he had seen in his life, what kind of birds they can expect to see today, and what times of the year are best to see particular species of birds. But as the minutes turned into ours, the man secretly became frustrated at his lack of a sighting.

Then the boy said, "Look Grandpa, there's a bird!" as he pointed up towards the top of a tree.

"Oh, that's just a crow," said the man. "That doesn't really count as a bird sighting. They're much too common."

"Well," said the boy, "I think its beautiful."

The man stood stunned at what his boy had just said.

After a minute of silence as they both stood watching the crow, the boy said, "Thanks for taking me bird-watching, Grandpa."

Jan 26, 2012

World, meet June Embers

No, it's not the name of old lady. Or an Adele protege trying to come up with the newest nonchalant stage name. It's my new band, and we can be listened to here:

(Or here, if you insist: June Embers)

You can download it for free. Just do us a favor and come to a show. :)

Jan 9, 2012

A devotional for people who don't like devotionals

If your looking for a great, inspirational, and practical book to read in little pieces every day (i.e., a "devotional"), check out End Malaria. It's a compilation of 2- and 3-page blurbs from successful business guru types on how to be successful, relevant, and most importantly joyful in our post-industrial world of work.
And best of all, you don't have to be a business guru or entrepreneur to enjoy these little blurbs of wisdom. You just have to apply it to whatever it is that you do--work or hobby. (Unless you do something that you don't care about.)

As an added bonus, when you buy the paperback for $25, 20 of those dollars go the Malaria No More. When you buy the Kindle edition for $20, 100% of that goes to Malaria No More.

Check it out.