In a moment of post-funeral decompression, I thought back over the service to the prayers and general air with which I conduct these things. There is a certain amount of respect and care that pastors are expected to show, as is expected on any Sunday morning, but the tone of voice that gets used at a funeral or memorial service might be a little softer, a little more measured.

Then I got to thinking about worship in general. There are phrases and voices used for prayer and worship that wouldn't be found anywhere else in normal conversation, in a meeting, during a presentation. Yet this worshipspeak seems to be appropriate in a church setting.

First, there's the tone. This encompasses a few things. For one, many colleagues of mine when giving a prayer or sermon wiiiiiiill streeetch theeeir vooooowels iin ordeeeer to souuuuund moore pentitent. On top of that, the inflection does this rollercoaster sort of thing where every word starts uphill. It's hard to explain in writing, but I'll do my best. In normal conversation, one may say, 'It's good to see you, Jeff.' If this is said during a prayer, it might be written like this: 'IT's GOod To SEe YOu, JEff.' So couple that with the vowel thing, and you end up with, 'IiiiiT's GOOOOOoood TOoooo SEEEEeee YOOOooouuu, JEEEEeeefff.' Perhaps this reads as an exaggeration. Listen to the inflection of words next Sunday and picture everything written like this. If a pastor's 'holy voice' was written like it's spoken, it would look like that.

Next, the grammar and phrasing that we use can be simplified. Here's a small sampling of what belongs in this category:

~'Just.' As in, 'Lord, we just want to thank you and just praise you and just, Lord, just, you're awesome, Lord, and we just come to worship to just worship you.' What is it about prayer that causes people to fill in their pauses with this word? 'We just want to thank you.' Here's a shortcut: 'Thank you.'

~'That we might.' As in, 'We come before you in prayer that we might be transformed by what you are saying to us.' Let's see how this would work in normal conversation: 'Bob, please pass me the green beans, that I might put some on my plate.' 'Sally, step back from the edge of the canyon, that you might not fall in.' 'Andrea, please give me money, that I might purchase a candy bar.' Mike, get away from that rabid dog, that you might not become bitten.' The second clauses in all these sentences are completely unnecessary, yet we add them in prayers to awkwardly name what we want to happen.

~'Let us.' As in 'let us pray,' or 'let us go out to serve.' This is meant as a gathering up of the people to do a certain thing. In the case of the latter, I guess it's supposed to be inspiring. 'Come, let us go.' Perhaps if we lived in Shakespeare's day, it would still sound inspiring, too.

There's something about the worship setting that causes people to break out a different vocabulary and intonation. We break into worshipspeak as if we somehow believe that flowery language is more proper for God. We might be like the minions on Buffy Season 5, who refer to their god with all sorts of ridiculous terms of endearment ('your flashy but tastefulness') in a horrendous attempt to butter her up. We've come to trick ourselves into thinking that God hears us better when we break out unnecessary clauses and do voice gymnastics.

Of course. We're trying to play a part in creating a holy moment. Holy moments are different from other moments, so these moments may call for a different approach, a different vocabulary. We think we need something that sounds more poetic and pious, something that sounds like a hymn. Many of us have been conditioned to think that approaching God is different from placing an order at Burger King; that part of this approach involves an alternative language and tone and we can't simply say what we mean.

We can learn from the Psalms, from Job, from Lamentations and some of the prophets here. While there is poetry present, some of these writers just outright yell at God. 'I can't believe this is happening,' they shout. There's nothing poetic about that. They want an answer! If the first verse of Psalm 22 had been written in worshipspeak, it might look like this: 'O God, my God who created all the worlds and is the supreme One, I just come before you that you might answer me, for I just wonder why you have been absent.' What we get instead is, 'Why have you forsaken me?' They don't have time for bells and smells.

What if we talked to God as a holy Being instead of in a 'holy way?' Maybe people don't see a difference. It's fully possible to talk to God in contemporary English, fully recognizing God's power, presence, and potential, without doing a bad rendition of Hamlet. I doubt that this is what Paul meant when he wrote that we don't know how to pray as we should, but it could be added to the list.

A Dream Comes True

I've seen this story referenced a few different places. An autistic boy suits up for his high school basketball team's last game of the season...and scores 20 points.

I don't know which is more heartwarming...how well he did, or how crazy the crowd goes.

Check it out here.

Pop Culture Roundup

I started 1984 the other day. It's been sitting on my nightstand the longest, and I've finally gotten around to it. I need more non-theological reading in my life, so this was the natural choice out of the stack. I'm not far enough to really comment on much, but I'm already wondering if this is another commentary on communism like Animal Farm, or on something much more sinister. So far, I'm thinking more about fascisim/Nazism as a possibility. It's more glaring with the idea of Big Brother watching everything. The natural inclination nowadays might be talk of wiretaps and Patriot Act, but I'm wondering more about what Orwell had in mind originally.

I happened upon
Assault on Precinct 13 the other day and half-heartedly watched it while doing something else. It was a typical shoot-em-up, 'good guy has to work with bad guy to fend off really bad cops' movie in the vein of The Negotiator. It was an action thriller that was nothing special. I was interested in the cast, though: Laurence Fishburne, Ethan Hawke, Drea De Matteo, John Leguizamo, and Ja Rule were faces I recognized immediately, and a few others had me trying to remember where else I'd seen them.

Speaking of Drea De Matteo, Sopranos Season 5 was one of my birthday presents yesterday. I'd seen the entire season save for the finale, so I was happy to get some closure even though I'd been told about what happened. This was one of the better seasons, I thought. It focused more on the dynamics in Tony's crew and Tony wanting to be an effective leader. We've also been plodding through Buffy Season 5, which has been horribly depressing.

Yesterday while eating breakfast, I caught
Pink's new video for 'Stupid Girl,' which makes fun of Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, booty dancers in rap videos, and the whole 'fake boobs, pink fuzzy track suits, fake tan' subculture in general.

Around the web, check out this commercial for Me Church. Then go here and
press this button to shut down the internet.

'Organic Church' Review, Part 2

I've finished Organic Church. I skimmed the last chapter and a half because all it was was a series of 'success stories,' which I didn't care about enough to read. I'd grown weary of the book by then, so now it has its spot on my shelf, probably never to be revisited. A few more points...

~Cole's church model is basically one of small decentralized 'house churches.' I hesitate to use 'house church,' because according to him they also meet in coffeeshops, parking lots, bars, etc. He sets this model over and against a hierarchical model, stating that all are interdependent of one another, rather than having any chain of command. In presenting this model, he challenges the reader to set out from the safe haven of church as we know it and go where the people who, by implication, aren't welcome in our clean cushiony pews. This is the notion that I really liked about the book, as I find it in tune with what Jesus was about. What is sad is that the amount of people in modern American churches who have ever considered this notion is pathetically small.

~I've already stated that I find Cole's theology to be lacking. What is equally atrocious is his use of metaphor. There's one section where he tries to refer to Jesus as the Church's Bridegroom and Lord of the Harvest, and it falls flat: 'The Bridegroom must be woo'd by the Bride to produce more workers for the harvest.' So either she needs to have a bunch of babies so they can be put to work, or she needs to nag the Bridegroom to hire more servants. In addition, he talks about God the Father as conceiving the church. So what we end up with is God the Father encouraging the Son to marry the Church, who has also been produced from the Father, so that they'll have a whole bunch of children to keep the plantation going.

~As I mentioned before, Cole references Schindler's List at one point. He briefly describes Schindler's legacy of buying over 1,100 Jews to work in his factory in order to save them from the Holocaust. Later on in the movie is a scene when Schindler grieves his still owning a car, his Nazi pin, and other items, instead of selling them so that he could buy a few more people and save them. This story is related in the midst of a discussion of the 'rougher' crowds he's interacted with, so I'm hoping for something much different than where he ends up going, which is that Schindler is God and wants to purchase all our souls through Jesus' blood and blah blah blah. Never mind the more obvious command from Jesus to sell possessions and give to the poor. The entire book is from a 'Jesus died for sinners and we need to help save them from hell' perspective, even if he only mentions hell a handful of times. It's a typical view of Jesus and his mission that comes more from Paul and Revelation and less from the Gospels. The pieces from the Gospels that do get drawn out are all those bits that add to the Paul/Revelation view.

Organic Church ended up being quite a frustrating read. There are some good soundbites that have been quoted on another blog, which attracted me to the book to begin with. You know how when you watch a movie preview and then go see the movie, you discover that all the best parts were in the preview? That's exactly what this was for me. Even aside from that, this has reinforced my view that most books critiquing or proposing church methodology are generally to be left on their shelves. It's all theory and deconstruction with some anecdotes, poorly written metaphor, and a healthy dose of 'get 'em saved' thrown in.

'Organic Church' Review, Part 1

I've been reading Organic Church by Neil Cole. It professes to be the 'red pill' that will cause the reader to see church differently, although I find it much more tame than other suggestions made around the blogosphere and various internet fora. He mentions church practices that he finds inadequate and presents an alternative ecclesiology. It's a book not just about method, but about the very definition of Church and church. It's also a book with a heavy emphasis on evangelism and church planting. It's heavy on theory and not much on practicality, which is actually because of certain pieces of his theory. You'll see.

A few notes so far...

~He critiques what he calls the 'Sunday morning show.' This is what he calls the notion that we put so much time and energy into that 1-2 1/2-hour slot on Sunday mornings to make music lively and the preaching engaging, creating a 'y'all come' model of church. Actually, when talking of preaching, he doesn't use the word 'engaging,' he says something like 'entertaining.' The point that he wants to make is that we want the worship time to be so attractive that people will want to come at the expense of our venturing outside our safe walls into the community. He mentions that non-Christians and unchurched people aren't clamoring to come to our worship services no matter how flashy or modern they are. There's something else that we need to reach people with, that being the gospel (and our definitions of the gospel differ...he's much more of a blood atonement person...however, he does use a lot of Kingdom of God language, so I was able to relate to this piece of his theology).

~Related to the first point, he states that we spend so much time on making our buildings bigger and better-looking and more comfortable that we insulate ourselves from the world and hope that it will either go away or come in on its own.

~He states that there's no basis in the New Testament for weekly worship time. There isn't? And if there isn't, so what? Jesus is show teaching during a synagogue time more than once. By the time the New Testament was written, people were gathering for prayer and teaching and agape meals. He acknowledges the meals, but apparently misses the moments in the Gospels and Acts when people gather in worship spaces. Never mind all the corporate gathering times in the wilderness around the tabernacle and later in the Temple in the Old Testament. Finally, the argument that since there's no Biblical basis it must be wrong or ill-advised doesn't hold up. We do all sorts of extra-Biblical things that can be and are beneficial. Computers, refrigerators, baseball, the moveable type printing press, and keeping cats as pets all aren't mentioned either. It's time to give up this notion that only Biblical things are worthwhile things.

~Cole spends a good amount of time talking about letting God take control, letting Jesus run the committee meeting, letting God grow the church and accepting our roles as the planter rather than the grower. He bases this on Mark 4:26-29 where the sower sows seeds but can't control the growth. I like the metaphor as it recognizes that both we and God have active parts to play. However, it's also a little frustrating. Saying 'let Jesus run the board meeting' sounds nice and not many would disagree with such a notion. However, he doesn't really dare to define what a Jesus-run board meeting might look like. Through all his suggestions that we let God take control, he assumes two things: 1) churches that operate outside of his model aren't striving to do that already, and 2) a God-controlled church function will look tremendously different. He paints himself into a corner a little here, because by suggesting that God take over and being prepared to be surprised by what ends up happening, he can't define how one might discern that what ends up happening is really God-inspired. It's the latest in a long line of anti-institutional ecclesiology that limits itself in defining an alternative by saying to 'let God handle it' and not much else. He does present an alternative, though, as best he can. I'll write more about that in Part 2.

~Cole and I share some of the same theological keywords: the kingdom of God and transformation. He recognizes that it truly is God doing the transforming and recognizes our role as instruments through which that can happen and spends a good amount of time reminding the reader that church isn't about us...it's about God and neighbor. For him, love of neighbor is mainly shown through correcting his or her 'lost'-ness and getting them 'eternal fire insurance.' He botches a Schindler's List analogy, which I'll also mention in Part 2.

I thought I was enjoying this book more before I started writing this entry. I guess I have a lot more issues with it than I thought. By Part 2 I'll probably be finished with it and I'll present the rest of my critique.

Critic vs. Doer

It is not the critic who counts:
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena;
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, and comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
who does actually try to do the deed;
who knows the great enthusiasm,the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause;
who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
Far better it is to dare mighty things,to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure,than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
-Theodore Roosevelt

Thanks, Scott.

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading Organic Church, yet another book in the 'How to save the American church' section. This book comes from a much different angle: it proposes smaller churches without big fancy buildings meeting where people hang out. One quote, roughly paraphrased, goes like this: 'If you want to reach people for Jesus, you have to sit in the smoking section.' It's the direct opposite of every book proposing to make your church bigger, flashier, and more comfortable. I have some disagreements with it (he seems to challenge the traditional 'quality over quantity' rule), but giving it its own post might be better to discuss it.

We saw The 40-Year-Old-Virgin this week. It was the Unrated Version, so it included some extra footage which made the movie over 2 hours long. I don't think comedies are usually that long, but this turned out to be a pretty involved story. They had an extra-long setup for the eventual relationship, spent a lot of time with the 3 friends who want to help him with that first time, and the final resolution was actually sort of sudden. There were plenty of good moments, and Steve Carrell is a solid comedy actor. One would expect Rob Schneider to star in a movie like this, but Carrell helps humanize the character and make it more than a one-joke movie.

We've moved on to Buffy Season 5. Okay, I said that Season 4 was a transitional season. This seems much more like a transitional season. We're halfway through it already and the big evil of the year isn't that established yet. They've spent more time on some of Buffy's personal relationships: Riley, Joyce, Dawn, Giles, even Spike, and her studying her destiny a little more. One subplot has Joyce, her mom, undergoing treatment for cancer, which has made this season a little rougher to watch in our household. The whole season really is a downer compared to previous seasons. I used the word 'season' a lot in this paragraph.

We saw Rent last Friday evening...not the movie, the actual show. There were many teenage girls there who 'Woo'd absolutely everything. There was at least one sitting behind us that sang every song. And of course the moment 'Seasons of Love' started everyone went nuts. Anyway, I had chosen to not like this musical for a long time just because everyone else made such a big deal out of it the first couple years after it opened. I have to say that after seeing it and hearing the rest of the songs, I quite enjoyed it. A lot of people balk at works like Rent and Brokeback Mountain because they deal with 'the gay thing', and never make it past those prejudices to consider the actual relationships between characters. It's all propaganda, they'll say. That's too bad.

I picked up Tenacious D's album this week, expecting every track to be like their singles: over-the-top rock songs with over-the-top lyrics. As it turns out, Wonderboy and Tribute are the only real good songs on the CD. The rest consists of 2-minute songs that sound like they were writing them as they sang them and weak comedy bits. I wonder what I could get for it on eBay.

Tall Skinny Kiwi has been added to the blog list.

Bible Stories You Won't Learn in Children's Church

This is the title for our upcoming Lenten series. The church traditionally holds Wednesday night soup suppers with a pastor-led program afterwards. This year we'll be studying some of the more dark and disturbing passages in the Bible and raise questions about their value, both then and now. Here's a brief overview, to be expanded each week through Lent according to which text is that week's focus.

Genesis 38 - Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, has three sons. His firstborn, Er, marries a woman named Tamar. Er dies without them bearing a son. Er's brother Onan does not fulfill his brotherly duty and dies as well. Judah keeps his third son Shelah from meeting the same fate, so Tamar resorts to other measures to conceive: she disguises herself as a prostitute and sleeps with Judah. The whole thing reads like something off of Passions, though I'm sure it would be much better acted.

Psalm 137 - The people of Israel are exiled in Babylon and can't bring themselves to sing. They long for the day of retribution when they can dash the heads of the Babylonians' babies against rocks. We'll question the fruitfulness of such a reaction and talk about revenge vs. justice.

Judges 19 - A Levite stays as a guest in Gibeah. The men of the town eventually show up at the door demanding that the Levite come out to them so that they can rape him. Instead, the Levite's concubine is thrown to them, and she is found on the doorstep the next morning beaten, raped, and dead. We'll talk about the view and treatment of women in the Bible and how the concubine might even speak for women today.

2 Kings 2:19-25 - Elisha is taunted by some 'small boys,' and Elisha responds by having two bears maul them. We may explore issues similar to the Psalm, and ask about the God revealed in this story.

A Yet-to-be-Decided Text from Joshua Where a Whole City is Wiped Out on God's Command - There are a few to choose from.

These are subject to change, as I don't want to necessarily focus on the same question of 'What kind of God is depicted in this overly violent text?' Genesis and Judges will be unique enough...it's the other three with which I'm not totally satisfied. Joshua might provide a good springboard into the topic of war.

What I'm trying to prepare myself for is what I see as one inevitable response: 'Well, that's just how God wanted it to be.' I want people to look past that. If God wanted an entire people wiped out, what sort of God is that? If one of God's prophets is allowed to sic bears on small children, what sort of God is that? Then may come, 'We can't understand God's ways.' These are non-responses given in order to avoid the question. The purpose of this study is to acknowledge the incredible amount of sex and violence in the Bible, and to deal with it rather than piously gloss over it. A modern example of the above responses would be to look at pictures from war and shrug it off with some trite saying like 'War is hell' or 'You can't make an omelette...'

Simply giving God the benefit of the doubt in these stories comes from a particular reading that assumes God's supreme authorship of scripture. Who might we be to question the annihilation of a city so that the Israelites can have their promised land? God wanted it to happen and that should be good enough. The Bible is short on details, so we don't see the corpses littering the streets, mothers and children, youth and elderly. We don't feel the stillness of death, we can't smell the blood. It's easier when there is less detail provided and a purported divine blessing covering it all. This study will try to fill in some details and wonder about the blessing. For some it is a dangerous place to go because it is depressing and spiritually taxing. For others it is a new and exciting way to read scripture.

I must be clear that this is not meant to tear faith down, but to deepen it. It is not meant to discredit the Bible, but to enhance people's understanding of it. Laypeople in churches statistically don't have a lot of knowledge about the Bible outside of what the pastor tells them on Sunday morning. This is meant to engage that 90 degrees out from beginner's courses that no one will show up to. It's a way to provoke further study, and a way to get people to provoke scripture.

The past few days have not been bright here at POC. I'll try to lighten it up soon.

An Explanation

'You were supposed to be gone for a week or so, and you lasted three days before you posted again. Wazzupwitdat?'

An excellent question, blogreader. I decided on another hiatus for a couple reasons:

1. To recharge my writing batteries. I was getting frustrated with recent writing quality and wanted to take a break in order to come back fresh. However, my experience is that, typically, one doesn't come back fresh, one comes back rusty. In addition, I have found that my batteries don't need recharged. Rather, my posts just need more thought. This is the new POC way.

2. I wanted to think about changes in layout because other blogs look cooler than mine. But now I am satisfied with the slightly cooler look found here and don't feel like thinking about that any more.

3. I couldn't resist getting a shot in at ol' Freddie. I have a story to tell about one of his visits to St. Louis. I'll write about that later.

4. I'm reading a book called The Organic Church and I need to process it openly with the blogosphere.

5. I just want to write. This should be number 1, but instead it's down here. One takes a hiatus when they're truly burnt out. I wasn't feeling burnt out. I thought I was. But a day away revealed that that was not the case.

Some great things to come, fellow bloggers and blogreaders. There are a few entries in the oven and much to discuss. And I'd rather be writing than watching the last entry get older...and older...and older. I find this place to be a great release and processing center. I didn't expect it to last this long, and now I don't expect a quick end...unless I accidentally hit the 'Delete Blog' button when going to publish, which I actually almost did once.

Deletion Made

Thanks to the miracle of Statcounter, I've discovered that due to my mentioning a certain hateful person a few entries ago, his organization has posted a link to that entry as if it was some sort of trophy. 'Look at how controversial and persecuted we are!'

Well...I didn't like that entry to begin with. It wasn't written well and I didn't express my thoughts very clearly. So it's gone.

But if I had to do it over again, I'd write not about how angry I am at you, but how I think you're everything that doesn't represent Jesus. Show me where he'd want us to act the way you do. Actually, don't. Just stay the hell off my site.

And enjoy your dead link.

Herd Mentality

I'm cutting short my hiatus because I wanted to present this article:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Fans of No. 5 Gonzaga have been asked to stop yelling "Brokeback Mountain" at opposing players.

The reference to the recent movie about homosexual cowboys was chanted by some fans during Monday's game against Saint Mary's, and is apparently intended to suggest an opposing player is gay.

The chants were the subject of several classroom discussions over the past week, and the faculty advisers for the Kennel Club booster group urged students this week to avoid "inappropriate chants" during the Bulldogs' Saturday game against Stanford, which was nationally televised on ESPN.


"Many faculty members have brought up the discussion in their classes," he said. "They find none of the students have been comfortable with the chant, and that's a good sign."

So, to recap, a homophobic chant broke out at a basketball game, but after multiple discussions with what we may assume are representative amounts of the student body, no one was comfortable with the chant to begin with.

Here's the scenario: some guy on impulse starts his 'Brokeback Mountain' chant. A couple people around him find it to be a decent insult toward the other team and start in with him. Before too long, the whole section is chanting. It is only later that anyone really thinks about HOW the chant is insulting. They just wanted to get swept up in the moment and make someone on the other side mad. One who doesn't immediately chant is a party pooper, a troublemaker, a weenie. At that moment, consequences don't matter. It is only later that all realize that the party pooper was right. It is only later that hundreds of people realize how derogatory (and why don't we add 'hateful') they were truly being.

This is why the collective mind can be so dangerous. This is how the most destructive movements in our world's history began. Get the propaganda to be flashy and juicy enough and no one will want to think about what it really means. Put enough style and finesse into a cause and no one will care about actual substance. Put hate in a fancy dress and no one will notice.

Get some key people on board and the herd will follow.

'But it's just a basketball chant,' right? It's also indicative of how people with minds of their own get sucked into the collective mind. Leave your reason at the door and follow us. Squash your second thoughts. This is a movement based on fear of being ostracized, not necessarily on loving what is right. Chant first, question the chant later. Murder, oppress, and demean now, 'navel-gaze' later.

Jesus was crucified for not thinking with the herd. His kingdom was not the world's kingdom. God's kingdom was not Caesar's kingdom.

Thank God that he was such a party-pooper.

Pop Culture Roundup

It's been a slow week media-wise for me, so this will end up being brief.

I'm still reading Dave Barry, but my Tillich reading has fallen by the wayside. I tried picking Tillich up the other day, but was preoccupied with other ecclesiological questions that weren't being answered by a discussion on revelation's tie to existence. These questions basically stem from one overarching question: 'How do you change something that obviously isn't working when you know you'll get resistence from people who think it is?' It's not hand-wringing over what people will think...it has more to do with making an overhauled program work without as much support as you'd like. It's the type of question that Bill Easum would answer. I'd much rather be reading him than Tillich right now.

We finished Buffy Season 4 yesterday. It seemed like a transitional season in some ways: it's the first season without Angel, Oz leaves, Spike and Willow both undergo major character shifts. And if you've never seen the show, the last sentence makes no sense.

I flipped on VH1's Jump Start this morning while enjoying my breakfast smoothie and caught two artists that I quite enjoyed. The first is KT Tunstall, a blues/acoustic rock singer-songwriter. She has spunk. I like that. The second is The Killers, who I got my first real chance to listen to. I can hear hints of The Cure. Not a bad thing.

Around the web, RLP gives his State of the Blog address, which includes his experiences trying to earn money by writing.

Going Dark

After tomorrow's Pop Culture Roundup, POC goes dark for 7-10 days. Time to recharge, do some writing elsewhere, figure out how I want to approach this blogging thing in the future.

I read blogs like iMonk and RLP and think, 'I could put that much effort into my writing. I want to. How can I do that with the million other things I do?'

Not write the whole thing in one sitting. There's one idea. The angry post below was written over a few days' time. Its quality is still questionable, but I felt better about it by the time it was posted. The same with the little bit of midrash on Jesus and the disciples. Then there's all that grammar/'sharpen it up' stuff that always calls for attention.

I've also thought about moving to Typepad. I mentioned this to my cousin a month or so ago. He asked, 'Why?' I didn't have an answer. I'm at kind of a loss to explain why I would move to a pay service when this has served me well for over a year. Maybe it's the options, the fun I could have with layout. But I doubt that it would affect quality of writing.

So anyway, no blogging after tomorrow for a week or so. Then I'm back for more.


The Best Church Ad Ever.

Hat tip to UCCTruths.

Prophetic Words from Bono

When I first started seeing links to Bono's speech at a recent prayer breakfast, I rolled my eyes.

I thought, 'Great...Bono's up on his soapbox again.'

Then I actually read the speech for myself.

And I was impressed.

Read it here.

Super Bowl Party Day After

Some of our young adults gathered yesterday evening to cheer against the Steelers (northeast Ohioans that we are), save for one guy...who ended up rubbing our noses in it. By the middle of the fourth quarter we were ready for the one-sided Seahawks-obviously-aren't-going-to-get-any-calls torturefest to end. Here are some other notes from our night of food and fun...

~First, how many 150-member churches can say that their pastor's living room can be filled with members between the ages of 18-30? HOW MANY?

~My wife and I are observing South Beach at this present time, so the spread was moderately healthy: BBQ shredded chicken with whole wheat buns, crab dip with low fat cream cheese and whole wheat crackers, a veggie tray, and some more typical football party food. I did sneak a cookie and a Dorito (made a big production out of eating them in front of my wife is more accurate), but managed to stay true otherwise. And Diet Caffeine-free Pepsi doesn't taste like anything. No really, it tastes like nothing, if nothing has a taste. But it does. It tastes like Diet Caffeine-free Pepsi.

~The ads didn't seem to be up to their usual wacky quality, although the room had its favorites. The FedEx Pterodactyl got a good reaction, as did the Budweiser sheep streaker, the Sprint crime deterrant phone, and the guy killing the fly with the heart paddles. We could have done without the lame Pepsi stunt double/recording with Diddy spots, the mudflaps, and whatever the heck that Burger King ad was doing. An honorable mention goes to the young Clydesdale pulling the cart with the help of his parents. *Sniff*

~So recent halftime shows have featured 'safe' artists to prevent against another Janet boob-popping moment. 25-30 years ago, the Rolling Stones didn't fit into the 'safe' category. What happened? The room found the performance unspectacular, by the by. Maybe that's the age demographic, but I don't think I've ever looked forward to a halftime show. By the 150th time Jagger sang the line 'I can't get no satisfaction,' a discussion started on getting some fired up marching bands back into the halftime proceedings, a la Drumline. Most of us being marching band alums, we thought this was really cool. That means no one else in America does.

~I get it. Lost is on ABC.

~Maybe next year, Cleveland. Maybe next year. Or not.

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been working through Tillich...slowly. The material gets a little more dense in Part 1 than in the Introduction. I've also been reading Dave Barry Talks Back, which is much lighter. He shares such tidbits of wisdom as 'Never undergo any kind of major surgery without first making an appointment,' and 'if you must lick a toad, make sure it's wearing a condom.' Indeed. So true.

Academy Award nominations came out this past week, and this year I want to do something I've actually been meaning to do for years: make it a point to see all five Best Picture nominees beforehand. I've already seen Crash, so I'm 1/5 of the way there. I still need to see Good Night and Good Luck, Munich, Brokeback Mountain, and Capote. The lineup kind of reminds me of a few years ago, the year that The English Patient won. It's a group of smaller studio/Got Sundance to Fall Over Itself Applauding-type films. None seem to really stand out. But I guess I need to see the other four to see if that's true.

We've been watching a lot of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel lately. We have this new thing about picking up an entire season of one on DVD, and then an entire season of the other. Right now we're on season 4 of Buffy, which coincides with season 1 of Angel. However, we've already seen seasons 1 and 2 of Angel and need to catch up. There's a little bit of crossover that happens between the two. Angel seemed to take a little while finding its footing, and is a delicious dark complement to the more cheery Buffy. Angel has a wit as well (an episode in season 1 showcases Angel's dancing talent, which made me snort whatever I was drinking), but the overall tone is supposed to reflect the big cynical city.

I've been in a
Widespread Panic mood lately.

Around the web,
see how many of these you can get. I ended up with 23.

Busy Day

They started to follow Jesus. They pressed against each other to catch a glimpse, if only for a moment before being overtaken by each other. They craned necks and stood on their toes and pushed off of the shoulders in front of them. Would today be the day he'd perform another miracle? My son is sick...my wife has a demon...my master is growing old and blind. I need to talk to him...to look into his eyes...to touch him.

He was nowhere to be found that day. Where could he have gone? The desperation was growing. They'd heard the stories being passed around in the marketplace. People might share rumors of him over meals. His miracles were real. His preaching was fantastic. They wanted to see for themselves.

But he was missing. There was no time for this! They were demanding that he appear, demanding that he would perform for them. Please, he might die...please, I miss talking to her...please, he's so miserable...

In place of hope, there grew sadness and resentment. Attitudes began to change as a cloud of rationalization and bitterness crept around them.

'I heard that Bar-Mochba's leprosy came back a week later.'

'I heard that his disciples actually do all the work.'

'I heard that he's really ugly, and he has to hide his face in public.'

'I heard he actually has a few of these diseases himself.'

The grumblings began to change, from the front to the back. Word came through the crowd. He had been praying somewhere, and now had returned! A roar of requests mounted. Those near the back wondered if he'd make it to them. How could he possibly hear them all? Shouts of rejoicing could be heard. My child will live! My wife is well! My father can see!

The disciples took all this in. With each healing, with every touch, the crowd began to thin. With every moment of joy and thankfulness, a few more disappeared.

It was evening before they were finished. The disciples looked around. James shot John a look of anger and bewilderment. Peter caught Bartholomew's eye and shrugged. Jesus didn't seem to notice. He observed the houses; watched as one by one lights were extinguished and families settled in for the night. For many of them, sleep would be much easier.

James fought back what he really thought about all this, and instead ventured a question. 'So...what happens now?'

Jesus turned to look at his friend, reading that there was more he wanted to say. 'Now...you sleep. We'll move on to Capernaum tomorrow.'

'What will you do?'

'I'm going back out to pray.'

'Pray? Pray for what?'

'For all of them. For you. The usual.'

With that, Jesus set off to his familiar spot, leaving the twelve to wonder why he cared, more than a few of them stewing about the days' events. Shaking their heads, heading out in twos and threes, they prepared for the morning and for more of the same.

Been Discussing Elsewhere

It's not been an inspired week at P.o.C. I haven't wanted to write a lot the past few days. I watched with interest the State of the Union. The way one side stood and applauded, and then the other, it's a wonder anything gets accomplished in this country. I also read with some sorrow commentaries on the passing of Coretta Scott King. She was to speak at Synod last year, but her health was beginning to take its downturn and she was unable to do so.

I've been hanging out at a couple Evangelical blogs lately. One features a 'rant' by megachurch celebpastor Mark Driscoll in response to a column by Brian McLaren on 'the gay issue.' The first line of this highly intellectual response will probably be enough. But if you have no intention of clicking the link, here it is:

Well, it seems that Brian McLaren and the Emergent crowd are emerging into homo-evangelicals.

It goes downhill from there. If you have the time and energy to read down through the comments, I contributed my $0.02.

Then at Reformissionary they're talking about satellite churches and watching a video of the celebpastor in the middle of worship instead of, I dunno, training or hiring a real live human being. Not totally coincidentally, this centers around Driscoll's church. I'm becoming acquainted with his style and substance, and both bother me. I guess this is one of Evangelicalism's up-and-comers.

The debate rages whether a video of Mr. Personality preaching is a sufficient substitute for a pastor actually standing at a pulpit in front of you. If I want to see a movie, I'll go to a theater. I go to a church to worship and to interact with people, not to sit passively watching a screen. All that's missing is the popcorn and M&Ms. What? Megachurches sell that stuff? Oh.

Hey, sometime soon I'll write about my Lenten discussion series. It's going to be lots of fun.