Monday, December 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Season Review 2007

This season has been one of the most entertaining and rewarding Hokie football seasons in recent years for me. It had some ups and downs, mostly ups, and the downs made the ups more enjoyable. And of course, winning the ACC championship and beating UVa is all a Hokie fan can hope for in a season. Here are some thoughts about the season:
  • Emotionalism: The ECU game was my first trip back to campus since the shootings, and it was good to get back and hard to remember.
  • Disappearing act: Brandon Ore has a really bad junior season after possibly being the best back in the conference his sophomore year. Part of it was poor line play, but he seemed tentative and maybe a step slow all season (except the148 yards against UVa).
  • Patience: The offensive line took a long time to gel, but the end of the season seemed to click along. The key was getting Ed Wang back from injury so Nick Marshman could move back to guard from Wang's tackle spot.
  • Heartbreak: The Hokies looked like they had a win at home versus BC, up 10-0 with 6 minutes and one second left in the game and the defense playing outstandingly. Matt Ryan rallies the Eagles with 2 TDs in the last 2:45 to win 14-10. The loss sparks the Hokies to rally and win the last 4 games of the season, led by Macho Harris's post game speach "A Minor Setback for a Major Comeback"
  • Controversy: A quarterback controversy actually worked out in the end! Redshirt junior Sean Glennon, who was mediocre most of last season, lost his starting position in the middle of a terrible loss to LSU, 48-7 early in the season. In comes freshman Tyrod Taylor, who's mobility relieved some pressure from the line as it comes together. When Taylor got hurt versus Duke, Glennon comes in and plays great. The rest of the season, the QBs alternate as the situation dictates. We probably don't win against Florida State without Taylor, and Glennon carries us versus Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and the championship game. The QB rotation doesn't work in most cases, but I think it works here because both QBs approach the game with some humility and really enjoy and respect each other.
  • Redemption: All you can ask for: another shot at BC at the end of the season in the ACC Championship game, where we won 30-16 to finish 11-2 and earn a bid to the Orange Bowl versus Kansas.
  • Attendance: ECU, Ohio, UNC, Miami, and BC at home; Duke on the road, and on to the Orange Bowl!
  • MVP: It was such a team effort this year, this one is hard to give out to an individual, so I'll give it to the entire defensive unit, that played lights out for the 4th year in a row and gave the offense some time to mature. Special shout out to Eddie Royal for being such a joy to watch for 4 years.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top 5 Albums of 2007

Once again it is time for the annual top 5 albums of the year. It gets harder every year, but I thought there was some decent music out there this year. I don't think my top five are as differentiated as last year, when I had a clear number one.

  1. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky - Suprise! Chris puts a Wilco album at #1. OK, maybe not, but I really liked this album. It is definitely a Wilco album, but also has a different feel than any other Wilco album. If I ever sell-out, I will also sell-out to Volkswagen, so that gets bonus points.
  2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Great indie pop-rock album. Infinitely catchy yet musically interesting.
  3. Avett Brothers - Emotionalism - North Carolina duet shows how much depth that country music can have when it tries.
  4. Caedmon's Call - Overdressed - Without Derek Webb, CC is just an average Nashville-sound Christian Band. With him, they're thoughtful, clever, insightful, honest, and beautiful.
  5. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger - Uneven album , but enough stand out tracks to merit a top five spot.

Non-album things I loved in 2007: Simple Shoes, my Senseo coffee maker with ecopads and Caribou Tanzania coffee, Urinetown, Heroes,

Friday, December 07, 2007

God says stop! and a podcast.

Well, my commute was about an hour today due to a wreck on the Neuse River bridge, but it let me listen to a good podcast that tied together a lot of things I've been thinking about a lot recently. Speaking of Faith interviewed Harvey Cox on the on the divide between religion and atheism. Cox is a theology professor at Harvard who is most famous for writing a book in the 1960s about the growing secularism in America and recently teaching a course on morality and Jesus which hundreds of Harvard undergrads take electively every year. Some thoughts:
  • He and the host speak about Richard Dawkins and Christophjer Hitchens (whose book God is not Great I recently read). The host says she hasn't interviewed them for the same reason she didn't interview Jerry Falwell: they have all the answers already. I was struggling with how to write a book review on it, so I'll leave it at that. He has some correct points that religion has done some bad things, but overall the book is divisive and hateful. I take the Niebuhr approach "Religion is both necessary and dangerous" or as one my favorite authors, Bruce Feiler, said in "Where God was Born", that the only answer to fundamentalist religion is moderate religion. People are jerks, but that does not necessarily make all religion bad. Cox says you can be very highly educated and also be very strident and also close out of your discourse important issues, which are current and new forms of thinking, and really not be in touch with the current state of the dialogue. That's what bothers me about them. They really don't seem to be interested or don't have the time or the discipline to engage or to tune in to this really quite remarkable, new series of conversations that's going on.
  • He speaks about a need of a basic religious education, as I read recently about in"Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't", which was a good book but pretty long for it's basic idea: so much of our society uses religious ideas and language, that since we don't know anything about religion it makes us bad citizens. It was written by a Harvard religion professor, Stephen Prothero. Cox was asked to teach a class on Jesus and Moral Reasoning as one of 35 elective ethics classes (Harvard students must take one.) There is a book based on the class that I'd really like to read now.
  • He speaks about how the Market has replaced God in America, following the 60s. This was very convicting, particularly how some of the language we use echos the language used of God in the Bible, and went along with Colossians Remixed, which I read and reviewed earlier this year. Cox on reading financial literature such as the Wall Street Journal: that we have a kind of a confidence, indeed, faith that the market will solve things, or at least many people have that, I don't have it, maybe you don't either, that you just leave it to the market. It will allocate things and in the long run, maybe the very long run, it will all come out fine. Just don't tamper with this, what Adam Smith called the invisible hand...

Anyway, interesting stuff...worth a listen in my opinion.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rob Bell says the Gods aren't Angry

The night before Thanksgiving, we went to see Rob Bell speak at Raleigh's Meymandi Concert Hall on his God's Aren't Angry Tour. As most know, I'm a big fan of Bell and really enjoyed my front row seat for the talk. To set the record straight, I am not a stalker because I've only travelled to Michigan to see him once. The other two times I've seen him, he's travelled to North Carolina. Who looks like a stalker now?
He started off with a story imagining a pre-historic woman and how she interacted with nature and created religion. He continued on to talk about some pagan religions around the time of the Exodus and the nature of the sacrifices of these religions. The God of Abraham, he argued, illustrates a very progressive idea in the early books of the Bible, in comparison to these religion. With this God, there is an idea of a sufficient sacrifice, and that this sacrifice is actually for your benefit, not for God's. He went on to talk about how Jesus' death extends the idea further, saying that no religious sacrifice is needed to be right with God. He closes with examples of how we worship gods today that demand unlimited sacrifices: money, career, control, etc. and suggests that we can leave those gods behind.

Now, I've read and listened to a lot of Rob Bell and none of his talk caught me by surprise. I thought it was a solid and thoroughly entertaining lecture. From some reviews online, and from the picketers outside of the hall, it shocked some people. I've read several blogs online that complained that Bell skipped over the concept of hell, judgement, and sin. There were folks handing out tracts outside the event along with a guy wearing a sandwich board saying "God is Angry at your Wickedness." I have several answers for the critics.

First, that wasn't the topic of his talk. He talked for almost 2 hours, and if he wanted to cover hell, sin, and judgement in the depth he spoke, I would have demanded a bathroom break and maybe something to eat. They were picketing the title of the talk without even understanding the topic of the talk. His intent was not to refute the famous John Edwards sermon. He likes to give his talks and sermons thought provoking (sometimes like spiritual double entendres) titles. You just walked right into it.

Lastly, sometimes I feel concepts like sin and hell and judgement are so distorted by us (Christians) that those words don't even mean what they used to. So they may not belong in the public square. He talked about habits and thoughts and lifestyles that are detrimental to us and how a God who created us out of love wants us to leave these behind. "You don't have to live like this anymore." That sounds pretty Orthodox to me, even if he didn't overtly use certain words. To me, if you insist on making tracts, you could make it into a pretty good tract (I won't tell you where to stick it when you're done.)

His talk was much more interesting and had much more depth than how I described it. Anyway, Rock on Rev. Bell, and I hope to see you again next year.

Here's some friends thoughts on the talk:

Monday, December 03, 2007

What are the presidential candidates worth?

I found this fascinating from this month's Kiplinger, on how the presidential candidates invest. Their list of the candidates' net worth:
  1. Mitt Romney $190-$250 Million
  2. Rudy Giuliani $18-70 Million
  3. Hillary Clinton $10-50 Million
  4. John Edwards $30 Million
  5. John McCain $21-32 Million
  6. Fred Thompson $2.6-8.3 Million
  7. Barack Obama $456,000 to $1.1 Million
It's interesting, not only how rich some of these guys are, but also how much Obama is worth. He's not really running as a populist (having read his book, he seems to bill himself mostly as a good politician), but he could probably stake a more legitimate claim at that than rich guy John Edwards. I know plenty of people who are worth more than Obama, and I will probably be in his ballpark when I'm his age. I don't know if he's the best candidate for president this go round, but there are an awful lot of things I like about him.
And man, Romney is stinkin' rich (he's a former venture capitalist, funding, among other things, Domino's pizza).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November Report

Well, another month and no blogging. It's certainly been our busiest month since we've been married. Lot's of stuff went on, and I probably won't ever be able to catch up, including several trips and the loss of a dear friend. Here's a rundown:
  • We spent a week in Tacoma visiting with Debbie's family and going to her friend Gen's wedding reception.
  • I then turned around and left for a business trip to Denmark for 5 days.
  • During my time in Denmark, our good friend Herschel passed away at 78 from an infection in his lungs. Debbie got to visit him in the hospital, but sadly, I did not. His funeral was in Missouri last week and there is a local service this Sunday. I will remember Hershell as a man of great grace and service. In a graceless world, Herschel always had a kind word of wisdom but never a ounce of judgement. Whenever Herschel asked me for help, I could never say no, because I always knew he wold never say no to me if I asked for help. I am a better person for knowing him.
  • I went to the Tech/Miami game that Saturday. The Hokies, after doing well but struggling most of the season have now won 4 straight in November (Georgia Tech, Florida State - for the first time in 12 games over 32 years, Miami, and Virginia). They've really found themselves and have hit a stride heading into a rematch with BC in the ACC Championship game this weekend. The quarterback contreversy has beem molded into a quite effective 2 QB system.
  • Wednesday night, we went to see Rob Bell's The Gods Aren't Angy Tour. I have a lot of thoughts, of course, but they'll probably perculate a little longer.
  • We spent Thanksgiving with my sisters in Corolla, NC. It was a really good, relaxing family fun time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What's up with us? - Catch up from a Heart-Breaking Weekend

Well, it's been almost a month since I've "blogged", but things are hoppin' right along for us. Every year, I really look forward to the Hokies' Thursday night home game. I have always taken Friday off and made some sort of fun plans for the rest of the weekend. In previous years I've gone white water rafting with church "young adults group", Debbie and I have spent time in Roanoke and the Blue Ridge parkway, and we've gone down to Asheville and Black Mountain. This year, the Hokie hosted number 2 Boston College, and we planned to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail and visit some friends who just moved to Roanoke.

  • The game was heart breaking. As someone put it "we love college football, and we just got college footballed." The Hokies played their hearts out and played the best they have all season. The running game clicked a little bit against the #1 rushing defense in the country, the offensive line blocked as well as they had all season, Sean Glennon ran the offense efficiently for an injured Tyrod Taylor, and the defense absolutely shut down the best QB in the country. Until the last 4 minutes. Up 10-0 with the VT defense hitting on all cylinders, Matt Ryan bracketed an Eagle onside kick recovery with 2 TD passes. I think the last time an onside kick actually worked, I was 8 and we we executed it perfectly in the neighbor's back yard. Kudos to the Hokies players for playing so hard; that's why I love you guys. Anti-kudos to the guys Andy sold his tickets to and their foul language. Additional anti-Kudos to the guy near us who screamed "You Suck Hokies" after the clock expired.

  • After spending 4 hours watching our team lose in the rain, we decided against a five hour hike on the AT in the rain, so on Friday we went to Dixie Caverns, drove a bit on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and went to the mall. We also met my friend and former co-worker John, who just moved to Roanoke, for breakfast. Friday night we went to The Homeplace (same as it ever was) and spent the night with our friends Terri and Marty, who also just moved to Roanoke. They have 5 acres in Botetourt County; you can see their house from the AT.

  • Saturday we met the Trogs at the NC Barbeque festival. Good times, but basically a big street fair like many small towns have, just very well attended with good music and 'cue.

  • Back in town Saturday night for small group on Sunday evening. Sunday morning I watched God Grew Tired of Us, which was a really interesting documentary about 3 Sudanese lost boys who grew up without their families in UN refugee camps, and then immigrated to the US. Really heart-warming and uplifting, but also convicting of just how good we have it here. I suggest it for anyone who is interested in such things.

I have a lot of things to capture here, but they may have to wait. We've started our new small group and are really excited about how that's going so far. I've also finished several worthwhile books, and have more in the queue (of course). But, we'll be in Washington next week visiting Debbie's family and then, the day after we get back, I leave for Denmark again for a week.

Jesus Wants to Save Christians

As promised several months ago, here is short review on the sermons of the Rob Bell series, Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Rob takes the idea that Christians are saved and others are not and flips it upside down; asking what we, as Christians, need salvation from. I certainly realize there are things I need deliverance from in my own life. This was, once again, a really great series that was very convicting to me. The first time I listened to it, about a year ago it really shocked me that a preacher would say some of these things, but a year later, they have sunk in and it just makes me focus on the things I need to give up and/or work on.
1 – Review of the new Exodus. This is a review of his previous series which is a primer on narrative theology. It portrays the story of Israel as a story we are all part of, asks what are our personal and societal (metaphorical) Egypts that we need to be delivered from, and asks what are the empires (systemic injustice) that we need to oppose. God always hears the cry of the oppressed. Exodus 3:7-8
2 – Jesus wants to save Christians from having to have all the answers 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
3 – Jesus wants to save Christians from (an improper understanding of) Hell. This sermon is a survey of the English word Hell (translated from greek words Tarturus, Hades, Gehenna) in the New Testament and it’s meanings. Turns out, Hell is an actual place outeide Jerusalem So you can go to Hell. Really, you can.
4 – Jesus wants to save Christians from having too much. (Because it makes us out of touch, indifferent, and alone) Luke 12:13-21
5 - Jesus wants to save Christians from Prejudice. This sermon is delivered by Kent Dobson, who is a member and former worship pastor at Mars Hill and talks about who Jesus ate with, what he ate, and why this is so important. Luke 10:4-11
6 - Jesus wants to save Christians from Hate. Luke 10:25-37. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews, but in the parable, the man was dependant on the person he hated to save him.
7- Jesus wants to save Christians from Greed. Luke 16:19-31
8 – Jesus wants to save Christians from worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Matthew 13:1-23

If you want to lsiten to the series, you can download it here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Irresistible Revolutionary

We were fortunate enough to go see one my current heroes, Shane Claiborne, speak last night at Duke Memorial UMC in Durham. Shane is the author of the Irresistible Revolution and one of the founders of the Simple Way, an intentional Christian community in the "badlands" of North Philadelphia. Shane spoke on Grace and Peace, 2 things that seem to be greatly lacking in the world today. He was funny, inspiring, eye-opening, engaging, hope-giving. Shane has had an amazing life, working with Mother Teresa, protesting the war in Iraq by traveling to Baghdad during "Shock and Awe", serving an internship at Willow Creek (how brave!), and moving to inner-city Philly. He considers his life an experiment in trying to actually live the way Jesus talks about in the NT. I really strongly suggest his book, but I also promise you it will be a challenge. Six months later, I still don't know where to "put" what I learned.
Afterwards, we went with the Trogs to eat ice cream and of course, in Durham, you are always presented with opportunities to interact with folks in a way Shane talked about as a tall African-American man (claiming to be my cousin Slim) asked us for money on the way out of Francesca's. (He was scruffy-looking but wearing a Whole Foods t-shirts saying "Got Brie?" on the front.) All I had (since I had spent my cash on gelato and the Claiborne event) was the change in my car. I hope I interacted with him not out of fear, but out of love, and with truth and respect that would honor God.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ohio Game Report: Tyrod Taylor Era Begins

I did not report on the LSU game last week, well, because it was bad. It was hard to watch and there was nothing interesting to reflect on other than the play of Tyrod Taylor, who came in late in the second quarter after it became obvious the offense could do nothing versus the Tiger D. I was torn, however, because I'm a big Sean Glennon fan. He's a good QB who's worked hard, represented the team and university well, and played very well in spots. Anyone who has ever been passed up for a position, promotion, project, etc. can empathize with him as he was passed over by a true freshman less than 2 full games into the season.
That said, TT is the real deal. After one game, it is now clear that he is the best QB on the team. My third post on this blog, less than a year and a half ago, announced the signing of Taylor. In his first start, he went 18-31 for 273 yards and rushed for a touchdown. His passes looked crisp, his reads looked good, and his mobility bought time when our still shaky O-Line broke down. My prediction: within a year, he'll be regarded as the best VT QB ever who has never served prison time. I think he puts us right back up there as a contender for the ACC title (seeing as no one else is that impressive in the league thusfar, other than maybe BC and Klimpsin.)
The weather in Blacksburg was perfect, a pre-game meal at Buffalo Wild Wings was excellent, and a 28-7 win by the Hokies was satisfying.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Making the world a better place, one Muslim liquor store at a time

My BIL Dave had told me about the website Kiva.Org several months ago. I finally got into using it today. It is a website that links you with people desiring microfinance loans in poorer parts of the world. Microfinance is growing in popularity and visability as a way to sustainably help folks elevate themselves from poverty. Other organizations let you donate money to their microfinance programs (like World relief, which is an awesome orgaization as well), but on Kiva, you can pick which businesses you want to invest in and get an update on how the businesses are doing later. You are only allowed to loan $25 to each business, with most businesses needing a $500-1000 total loan amount. The repayment rate is over 99%.

Anyway, Oprah mentioned them on her show this week, so they have been flooded with money and only have a few businesses on at a time that are in need of loans. This morning I invested in 4 businesses, including Farhod in Tajikistan, who is starting a liquor shop. Check kiva out, it's pretty cool!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Buy Fergie's Hummer, Save the Planet!

OK, I know the rich and famous tend to be disconnected from reality and all, but am I missing something here? Fergie is inspired by her Live Earth performance, so has decided to sell her Hummer on e-Bay, and give the money to some environmental charity! So now, someone else can drive the thing around, using just as much gas and generating just as much pollution. Fergie, however will be driving a Prius , donating thousands of dollars to a charity, and living with a clear conscience.
One of my Dads dreams was to buy and old car, park it in our back yard, plant flowers around it, and let us kids play around in it. That's the best thing I can think of to do with a Humvee. Anyone got a spare $64,000?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Return to Blacksburg

Last weekend we went to the first football game of the season, and it was my first trip to Blacksburg since the shootings in April. It was an emotional time for everyone. We went out to dinner and then to a divey Irish Bar on Friday night in Roanoke with a group of friends. Since we stayed in Roanoke, we were able to head out to Blacksburg early for a trip to the memorial. We walked from our parking spot to Norris Hall, where 30 people were shot and the shooter took his own life. A small parking lot across from Randolph, where most of my classes were, there were a few people outside looking at the doors that he chained to keep his victims in and the windows where students escaped. About 50 yards from the front of Norris is the “interim” memorial on the drillfield in front of Burruss Hall, the main administration building and the building you see on the front of postcards and such. There was a large group of people there, decked out in Orange and Maroon, solemnly and quietly processing by the 32 “Hokie” stones, each with the name of a victim carved in them. A man and his young son, each wearing a replica football jersey laid flowers on each of the stones in front of us as we joined the procession. In a few hours, we would transform in to a creaming horde of football fans, but for a few minutes we reflected and remembered – you could have heard a pin drop. The memorial is beautiful (I actually hope they leave it instead of building the planned memorial) – A reminder in the middle of this large secular university that we are mortal and the land is borrowed. Holy Ground. (Genesis 28:16-18)

Afterwards, while our minds were not completely on football, our feet were. We hit up the bookstore to buy Hokies United t-shirts, and then walked to the soccer practice fields where ESPN Gameday was being shot, to a tailgate where some friends were for a quick visit and a Natural Light, and then onto the stadium. After a pregame ceremony (watch the beautiful video shown on the dumbotron here - the song is by folk/pop band Eddie from Ohio, the lead singer Julie is a Tech grad), and an F-15 flyover, an exciting game started. The fans and the team seemed a little drained, and ECU played really well (I think they will be better than expected), but the Hokies played well enough to win 17-7. Our O-Line will have to be much better to win next week against #2 LSU in Baton Rouge (I really wish I was going).

I never lost it, but I came close: once when walking around the memorial and once during the pregame video.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Football Season

Well, Hokie football starts back up this weekend, and Debbie and I will be heading to Blacksburg for the ECU game. Even thought the Hokies are predicted to be one of the better teams in the ACC and the country this year, my thoughts are unfortunately on other things. This will be my first trip back to campus since the attacks in April, and quite frankly I've put the emotions of that day somewhere where I don't have to think about it. We're going to get into town early enought to walk by Norris and the new memorial and I anticipate losing it. I addition, the brightest star in the Hokie football universe seriously flamed out and came back to earth this year, with Michael Vick pleading guilty to running a dog fighting ring today and soon heading off to prison for 12-18 months. Looking out at those kids every week this year will be very different this year, and I think college football will be a bit less of an escape for me. The football players lost friends and classmates this year, and have said they feel like they're playing will help the healing of the university and community in some small way. I'll be thankful for and mindful of all the students and student-athletes that are still around - life is fragile. At the same time, these guys running around making big plays - enthusastically enjoying and exhibiting their skills and entertaining me and thousands of fans - well they're human. Most of them will end up being ordinary Joes - teachers, business people, farmers, engineers - and hopefully good citizens. Some may continue to be athletes and heros - and hopefully good people. And some will end up making terrible choices for their lives.

In preparation for the season, I'm reading What it means to be a Hokie, which my buddy Andy gave me for my birthday, and just finished Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer. In RJYH, the author basically lives my dream. He takes a leave from his job and follows his favorite team (in his case Alabama for the 1999 football season) around for the season, exploring the phenomena of college football RV'ing and fan culture. It was a really entertaining book that I highly suggest for college football fans. The first couple of weeks, he hitches a ride with a couple with an RV, and then he buys his own beater for the last part of the season. He encounters a man who goes to all the games even though he'll get bumped from the heart transplant list if he gets caught more than 2 hours from Nashville, a couple who misses their daughter's wedding because it coincides with a Tide game, and a minister who has a TV on the pulpit while he performs weddings during football season. He experiences the ugly side of sports (from inhospitable home fans to racism from a fellow Bama fan). One season I hope to follow the Hokies around in an RV and visit the cathedrals of college football (and tailgating) on the bye weeks (Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Florida/Georgia Game).

Friday, August 24, 2007

How are we to be set apart?

I just finished a book called Colossians Remixed. I had wanted to read it for a while, and it was pretty good. The basic idea is to imagine what Colossians would read like in a current, post-modern, pluralistic setting. The authors purport that Paul was largely explaining to the church in Colossae how they should be different than the dominant culture of the day, the Roman Empire, and if he wrote it today, it would be encouraging churches to reject global capitalism. They even rewrote much of the book in this light. It was pretty good and thought provoking, but also pretty extreme at points. It did have interesting thoughts about what is meaningful to people in post-modern culture, and how Christians can have an impact on this culture.
It made me think, if the church is called to be set-apart, how it should be set apart from the culture we live in today. If we are to be the light of the world, how can we lead and demonstrate what God's kingdom should look like. According to Colossians remixed, we should be leading the way in environmentalism, fair trade initiatives, social justice issues, etc.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tough Day

Yesterday was a tough day for us. It was the our last Sunday at the church that's been our home for a long time. It was particularly difficult at the youth pool party last night, since we've been involved with those kids for so many years, and they've seen so much turnover in leadership. While we leave hurt and with unmet expectations, the community has given us so incredibly much over the years (I have been there 7 years, Debbie 5; she was on staff the whole 5 years) I thought I'd take some time to write down some of the things it has meant to me.
  • I met my wife there. I was thinking about the first time I met her yesterday. I was dating someone else, but my immediate thought was "That's the type of person I'm supposed to be with." I ignored that feeling for a few years, but eventually it surfaced and won out. We forged a friendship in between services (she worked with the kids at the early service and I at the late service) and eventually started dating.

  • We decided to get married there, even thought it's not the most pictureque place in the world. It is a place that meant the world to us, and we wanted our friends and family to be able to experience that on our very special day.

  • It changed my life. I've gone to church my entire life, but church was a hollow experence for me until I walked into this church 7 years ago. My inital thought was that it was a cult because people were too friendly, but I think we just loved each other so much it showed through. I remember the pastor's first words that first Sunday(it was just before election day 2000): "As your pastor, I'm here to tell you how to vote. You go into the booth and take the pen, select your candidates, ..." I had been ill for a few years and out of church, but in retrospect that was a blessing God gave me to prepare me for the next step. I found a place and a group of people where I could be myself and learn about my place in creation. I was "saved" by any reasonable church definition (whatever that is worth), but my life started to show some signs of God's presence over the next few years.

  • I learned about ministry. I mowed the grass for 6 years, taught in the children's ministry for 3, played guitar in the band for almost 4, led a small group for 1, worked with youth a year and a half, helped organize the single adults group, worked at Vacation Bible School, and our Christmas event for several years, etc. Not bad for a guy who really doesn't like church.

  • I made great friends. One of my best friends told me that she knew we needed to be friends the first day we met there. She and her husband and I were in a small group together for over 3 years, and they are still very dear to me. I can't tell you how many more good friends we made there, and will carry with us wherever we go. These are people I share my soul with, not people who I hide my soul from, which was my previous experience with religion.

  • I got to stretch my musical muscles. I've been a musician since 3rd grade, when I started playing piano, but had never done much with my guitar playing and hadn't really done anything organized musically since college. I grew so much as a guitarist over those years and it really reminded me how much I love to play. I got to play with many musicians that were much, much better than me, and some musicians that maybe weren't quite as good as me, but it all came together beautifully. (Playing in a band is such a great model for discipleship.)

  • I learned about community. I was in 2 great small groups, and in each made great connections with people and really started to see glimpses of how I believe God wants us to live in community. (Once many friends.)

  • I started to hear God's call in my own life. I'm still listening, but I think he's got big plans for us. All of us. (You too.)

So, while I go forward with heart broken, I also go forward with a richer, more meaningful life full of hope. I pray with all my might that we find something great (in a mustard seed kind of way) to be a part of in our next step, whatever that might be. I also pray for our old church, that it can continue to minister in the face of a lot of difficulty and be a place for the next person to walk through the door. And for that person, that he or she find what God would have them find and be able stand as a life transformed by the work of Christ Jesus.
Peace, C.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mastering the Art of Living

It seems most of my friends are struggling with their faith. They’re Mad at God or church or a specific person, or just confused by the bible, or just don't buy the whole deal. It's a struggle for me because I'm ready to go. One of my good friends made a comment the other night that churches just want to get you saved and then don't care about what you become afterwards. I disagree with the generalization, but often American Evangelical churches will be focused on getting people in and not helping them grow. I think that's a mistake, because I'm learning faith is less about what you believe and more about what you do.
It made me think of my favorite Rob Bell sermon series, Mastering the Art of Living. It's a 15 sermon series from 2004, based on John 10:10 and the idea that Jesus came so that we could live the best possible life. Jesus taught the disciples, and in turn us, how to live the best possible way. The picture he paints is a martial arts student becoming a black belt by closely watching and imitating everything his master does.
Anyway, Debbie had asked me to make her some CDs of Rob Bell sermons for her to listen to in the car, so I copied this series. Since she listened to them, I decided to revisit the series. I thought a good way to help me remember what I learned was to write the title or theme of the sermon with a few of the key Bible passages (since Bell generally uses many passages in each sermon). Sermon #10 is my favorite, followed by #2. #11 is a mess of a sermon, but end up having a great point (and relevant to my first point). You can download the sermon series here.

  1. Being present (in the present) Matthew 6:34

  2. Rhythm: Why we need the Sabbath Exodus 20:8-11, Mark 6:30-31

  3. Harnessing Desire: Here’s something you'll really love Matthew 13:44-46, Ephesians 4:28

  4. Do Christians have all the answers? John 8:31

  5. (be)Incarnation – God loves to show up dressed as people John 13:34-35, 1 Corinthians 12:27

  6. He is Here: Waking up to the presence of God John 5:17, Genesis 28:11-19

  7. Learning to Surrender: What happens when God fails? John11:1-6

  8. Loving ourselves (so we can love God and others) Matthew 22:36-40 Genesis 27:15-41

  9. Weak is the new strong Matthew 5:5

  10. All things are yours 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

  11. Religion is a shadow of the truth we're after John 14:6-7, Colossians 2:8

  12. Living in Tune (Community and generosity) Acts 2:42-47, John 17:23; Romans 12:16

  13. Celebrating Symbols Genesis 28:16-19; Matthew 26:26-29

  14. God is bigger than your bucket Luke 9:49-50

  15. Grace pays the bill Luke 15

The next series I want to review is Jesus Wants to Save Christians. (Google is great – isn’t the picture I found awesome!)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Batchin' It"

So, when I saw my friend Todd last week (a bunch of us went to the John Mayer concert), the first thing he said was "So, how's batchin' it?" I din't know that there was a verb "to batch" or that it meant "to live as a single male", but Todd is younger and hipper than me, so I'll trust him.
Well, since then, lots of people have been asking me how I'm doing, if I'm eating okay, etc. People seem to forget I've been married for just over 2 years, after 35 years of taking care of myself. I'm the cook more often than not (although we eat out a lot more than either of us did when we were single). In a lot of ways, we're still in an adjustment period and these weeks have felt a lot more normal to me than having someone around all the time. I've missed Debbie a lot, but I've been trying to use my 2 weeks wisely. I got the new MacBook mostly set-up and started to clean up and organize the office area (including setting up my guitars so I have a place to play). I have tried to eat Mexican food once a day (I'm probably at 80%), since she doesn't like it as much as I do (which is an awful lot). I put movies that I knew she wouldn't want to watch at the top of my netflix list. I've been able to pray for her trip every day. I've spent some time blogging and cleaning up my e-mail in box. We've had 3 softball practices, so that's taken up some time as well (Debbie's arm will be sore for our first game on Tuesday!). I've met twice with Les, one of my spiritual guru's (once for Mexican!).
So, I've been keeping busy and doing fine. But, I can't wait until she gets back Friday night!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Kingdom Thoughts

I've been thinking about the Kingdom of God a lot this week and I've come to the following conclusions. The Kingdom of God is like a famous evangelist who gets half the town to put his bumper sticker on their cars. It's like an old NBA basketball arena that's packed full for 3 services on Sunday morning. It's like a well articulated vision that resonates with a bunch of people.

A couple of years ago, while I was in a small group that was doing some spiritual disciplines type stuff. I decided one week I would read the Gospels and Acts, straight through - like a story, rather than studying and dissecting it. I decided to read it in the Message, a modern paraphrase of the bible (not a strict translation). It was a really great experience, it's crazy I had never done before. I was struck by a lot of things: I thought Acts was compelling but weird, John was really weird and quite different than the other Gospels. But what struck me most was the talk of the Kingdom. It was the central idea in almost everything Jesus said, but it was a concept I had never really thought about before. Most of what he said or did was linked to the Kingdom of God (or Heaven, which is the word used in Matthew). I got the idea then that the Kingdom was different than what I thought Jesus mostly talked about. Maybe it was more than somewhere you went after you died or something that would be manifest after some sort of apocalypse. He talked about it being close, or arrived, or within us. (In lieu of a book review, I'll just say I just finished Brian McLaren's most recent book, where this is the main subject. It was pretty good.)

He also described the Kingdom of God by telling parables of small things: mustard seeds, yeast, a lost coin. These small things had something in common: they could make a big difference. I've been obsessed with this concept for about half a year now, ever since I wrote my "inspirational speech" for my leadership development class. Maybe because I'm so bad at these things, God is trying to point out what I need to work on. This weekend I was on a secret mission to spot the Kingdom of God. Here is my list of sightings:

  • Fresh homemade salsa.

  • Feeding my friends' infant nephew while having a post-dinner talk about life and such.

  • A struggling single mom sharing her amazing story with her church family (I was lucky enough to be visiting).

  • A one-year old's birthday party with a bunch of friends.

  • A friend calling me because he had good news and wanted to share it with me.

  • A late night walk with the dogs. (It's been insanely hot, so we hadn't been on a walk for 3 days, so the dogs were quite excited. Especially Pretzel, who lives for walks; she was really soaking it all in.)

I guess at this point, it is obvious the first paragraph was facetious. I think we really get caught up in the wrong things sometimes, looking to do grand things to further God's will. I'm trying to look for opportunities that aren't quite as grand, where I can make a small difference and let God do the heavy lifting.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Environmental Thoughts

As I journey through life, I'm beginning to think that faith is less about what you believe and more about what you do. I'm really digging the book I'm reading, Colossians Remixed. There is a section that gives a fictionalized account of the "testimony" of Nympha, a lady mentioned briefly in the book as the host of a home church. It gave a beautiful account of how the early church may have functioned and also a beuatiful account of how a community of faith could function. A lot of it was the about how they struggled with what to believe but were excellent at how to live.
Anyway, after reading Serve God, Save the Planet (See review below) and listening to Mars Hill's latest sermon series God is Green (author Matthew Sleeth actually deliverd one of the 5 messages), I've been thinking a lot about how I want to live in harmony with God's creation. It's very hip to be environmental right now with Live Earth and Al Gore's movie (once again the rocks are crying out), and the fate of our planet may be dire, but that doesn't change the fact that we should be good stewards of the home God has given us. My parents have always been careful with their resources, probably from growing up on farms, and I have traditionally been interested in environmental causes, but I fear I've fallen in line with the rest of my North American neighbors in consuming too much.
Every year, I sit down and come up with a financial plan in order to be a good steward of what God has blessed us with. It's more a list of goals than a strategy of how to get there, but I've always been able to meet most of them. My priorites have changed since getting married, but we've still been able to do really well. Goals are set in areas such as paying down debt, saving, and giving to the church and other organizations.
This year, I'd like to set environmental goals. Since Debbie is in England, I haven't discussed them with her yet, but here is a propsed list of goals fo 2008:
  • Increase car pooling. Since I live closer to work, I've got several opportunites to car pool and have been utilizing them some. I'd like to car pool 50% of the time next year.
  • Change all possible incandescent bulbs to compact florescent.
  • Put a power switch on our TV and stero so we can cut down on phantom power draw.
  • Since we hope to redo our kithcen, buy a new refridgerator/freezer where the ice maker can be cut off when not in use (vacaction stop button). One of the major draws in a home is the ice maker, which keeps the cooling coils chilled even when it is not making ice.
  • Cook and eat one vegetarian meal at home each week.
  • Bike to the Food Lion/Ace Hardware when we only need a few items.
  • Plant a small garden (peppers, tomatoes, squash).
  • Check the tire inflation on both cars monthly.

All of these are pretty small, but they can add up and make a difference. One of my favorite ideas in the Bible is that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Little things matter in really big ways (another post is brewing about this concept). For instance, if everyone in the US kept their tires properly inflated, gas mileage would increase so that the country would save the gas equal to taking 1 million cars off the road.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Picture time!

Several people have asked for more pictures of the house, so here you go. The first is a picture of the front of the house. There are pictures of the dining room (which we're using as a library), the back yard, the kitchen, the living room (which we hope to paint soon -- I for some reason can't get the picture to rotate).

The other exciting picture is my new MacBook, which I bought last weekend and am currently "blogging" from. I'm a complete dork and take a picture of the initial start up screens on my computers. I have them from my last 2 Macs, iMacs I bought in 1998 and 2001 (6 years on a computer is pretty good these days).

Debbie left for her mission trip to England this afternoon. Keep her in you prayers the next 2 weeks as she travels and works at the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dear Durham

Since we have officially sold our house (yeah!) I've been thinking a lot about Durham and moving to Raleigh and thought I would write an open letter to the city of Durham, NC to sum up my thoughts.

Dear Durham,
I'm sorry.
I'm sorry for moving to Raleigh. Even thought it was the right thing to do.
You're not what people think you are. When I first moved to you, I had freinds who wouldn't come visit me because what they they thought you were. But you were nothing but a great home to me. As nice as Raleigh is, it's no Durham. There are no Bulls Games. There is no Pop's or Magnolia Grill, no Mad Hatter's, no Foster's, no Cosmic Cantina. No Duke Forest or Duke Gardens. It's not that close to Chapel Hill.
I never, in seven years felt unsafe. Except maybe ontime I got lost on Geer Street at night and that time we were the only ones parked in the downtown parking deck. Since we moved to the "safe" suburbs of North Raleigh, we've had 2 break-ins on our street, 2 people get abducted in parking lots, a stalked in our neighborhood (he actually tried to nab a middle schooler in a nearby neighborhood). All in 4 months.
I made the best friends I've had since college in Durham. I lost 2 loves, but found the love of my life. I underwent profound spiritual rebirth. I started playing music again. I met my neighbors and we took care of each other.
I also apologize for not working hard for you while I lived there. You do have lots of needs, and I never tutored a child even though my house was zoned for the worst high school in the state. I didn't work on a house, even though downtown is full of houses and neighborhoods that need someone to take care of them.
I'll always defend you. When coworkers ask "How could you live there?" I'll tell them that you're cheaper, more diverse, more southern, younger, more artsy. And getting better all the time.
I'll be back, often, and maybe one day we'll return. My commute is tolerable now, but my part of my heart is still there.

Friday, June 22, 2007

4 Book Reports + 2 Album Reviews

With another long trip, I was able to finish a few books. So here is the report on those.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - It has been a while since I read a novel, and this one was good. It is a story of childhood, a mistake, and redemption with a backdrop of the modern history of Afhghanistan and imigration to the US.

The Tipping Point By Malcolm Gladwell - I loved blink, and I think the tipping point is even better. Gladwell really has an accesible writing style and covers very interesting topic. The Tipping Point is about how small things make a difference. He has a lot of good examples: how Hush Puppies shoes made an unexpected comeback, violence dropping in NYC, why people decide to continue smoking, how viruses such as HIV spread, the development of Sesame Street in the '70s and Blus CLues in the '90s, etc. Why? The "law of the few" says that organizations need to be small (less than 150 people). Special people exist: "Mavens" gather and share lots of information, "connectors" seem to know anyone, and "salesmen" have the power of pursuasion. "Stickiness" is a little less concrete; ideas have to have this in order to catch on.

Serve God, Save the Plantet, by Matthew Sleeth - Great, practical book about the intersection of Chrisitianity and Environmentalism, two things I am interested in and wish I was better at. He provides a scriptural basis for environmentalism, presents his own story of pulling himself out of consumerist culture and devoting himself to environmental causes, and presents some practical ways to be less intrusive on God's creation. I had some issues with some of his doctrine (mostly endtimes stuff), but in general he was pretty solid and his praxis seemed right on. He came off a little harsh sometimes, but maybe we've driven the planet to the point where that's appropriate.

Where God was Born by Bruce Feiler - Once again, one of my favorite authors (Walking the Bible, Abraham), Feiler is an American, Jewish journalist who writes about the intersection of current events and religion (focusing on the old testament). His methods is a kind of immersion, where he spends time in the locations he is writing about and then writes about the stories in the bible in light of what he learned from the location. In this book, he is focusing on the books of the old testament other than the Torah. He visits Israel, Iraq, and Iran in this book to visit the role these places have in the bible. I learned a lot from this book about the historical views of Joshua and David, the role of Babylon and Persia in the exile, the reasons for the dispersion, etc. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the history of the bible or is looking for an ecumenical viewpoint on the religions of Abraham (plus Zoroasterianism, which I knew very little about).

...and one album review, Sky Blue Sky by Wilco - One of my favorite bands comes out with a pretty solid effort. It is much more acessible than the last few albums on the first listen, but musically less brilliant. Jeff Tweedy's lyrics hint that he's a happier, more mature human, and maybe a little less restless spiritually. He often writes about religion in a negative light, but avoids that here, and many of his lyrics seem to come from a more seeking, humble place. The addition of Nils Cline on guitar adds a much jazzier feel to Wilco and most of the songs are pretty laid back. Not my favorite Wilco album, but I like it a lot. (Kind of like the pizza in the cafeteria: not great for pizza, but pretty good for food in general)

Last minute addition...I bought Easy Tiger by Ryan Adams yesterday at Target. A lot of people mistake me for a Ryan Adams fan because I was so in to Whiskeytown back in the day. I like a lot of Ryan Adams stuff, but for some reason haven't had to have everyone of his albums. I picked up Easy Tiger because I saw it when I went to buy a loaf of bread. Some have said its a return to is roots and some have called it brilliant. I have to say it has some of his very best written songs (Everybody Knows, The Sun also Sets, Two Hearts), but also some clunkers. I really hope that Halloweenhead is an inside joke. Or maybe its about that old Adam Sandler Skit.

Our house made it through inspection with only a few minor items, but the closing has been moved back to June 29. It will be a big relief when it all done.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I returned from my 2 week trip to Denmark and Germany late Thursday night. It was a really great trip. Debbie was able to come with me for a few days, then work was really good, and 2 colleagues and I made a side trip to Berlin for the weekend.

  • Last few trips, I've been going to First International Baptist Church in Copenhagen, and Debbie was able to go with me this time. It's really a different kind of church than we have in the states. There isn't a thousand English speaking churches, so you're kindof stuck choosing from the 4 that there are. It's a small, close knit community of people from all over (US, Australia, Asian countries, Jamaica, UK, etc.) in an extermely secular nation. A couple of people remembered me from my last visit 1.5 years ago. We were able to go out to eat with a American missionaries afterwards, which was a great opportunity.

  • We celebrated our 2nd anniversary in Tivoli, a small amusement park in the center of Copenhagen. Tivoli was an inspiration for Walt Disney's creation of his theme parks. We were both tired and not that hungry, so we just sat around and had a Hot Dog and some Ice Cream.

  • Visiting Copenhagen as a tourist, rather than just on business was refreshing for a change. Plus having my wife, rather than seeing stuff alone, was cool.
  • For work we had an area meeting that included team building excercises at Kronborg Castle, the setting for Hamlet. It was great to work face to face with lots of people I normally just know by e-mail.

  • Vanessa and Michelle and I spent the weekend at Berlin, which was awesome. I was expecting to be all communazi-ugly, but it was a really beautiful city with lots to do and see and it was really cheap, especially compared to Copenhagen. My highlights were Checkpoint Charlie and the Jewish Museum.

  • Oh, yeah! Our Durham house is finally under contract, scheduled to close on June 26!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mid way book review and looking back at my weekend

I'm 2/3 of the way through this book:

It's a good book and has lots of good thoughts, but I realized this weekend that it wasn't much fun. He's pretty much all business about starting churches and "saving souls", and starting them and saving them his way. Lately I've been so wrapped up in reading books about how the church must change and what not that I haven't been having much fun in my pursuit of God. I think I need to remember that Jesus can be fun.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Matthew 11:19

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

This weekend, Jesus was a lot of fun. Debbie and I took a vacation from our regular church in Durham (our old home) and went to Visio Dei in Raleigh (my even older home and our new home). With all the turmoil the last year at our church, for me it was great just to visit somewhere and worship without thinking how so and so used to be here or feeling hurt by so and so. The music was outstanding and I was really focused on experiencing the worship. I think that is one of the reasons to try and do music well at church, so people aren't distracted and can really try to connect with God. The sermon was very heartfelt, honest, and had a solid basis. I learned something and it made me think. Then, Sunday afternoon, we had a cookout at our new place. Most of the people there were either people from church or (mostly) people who used to go there. But the focus wasn't on that, it was on burgers, beer, and friends. That's how things are supposed to be.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Western Vacation

It's still hard for me to write about my vacation after what happened in Blacksburg the day we returned, but I think it's time. I have to say I feel a little guilty having a great vacation while 32 people were gunned down at my alma mater. But part of this blog's purpose is so I can look back and think of both good and bad times, of the great times Debbie and I (and one day our family) share, and this trip was definitely a good one.

We flew into Las Vegas and drove to St. George, UT, getting late that night, but it set us up for a full day in Zion NP. We did several hikes, but the longest and grandest was to Hidden Canyon. We scaled the side of the east rim of Zion canyon (quite a feat for me, who is scared of heights) to a slot canyon about 1000 feet above the canyon floor. There were great views of Angel's Landing and the canyon from the hike, and the slot canyon was beautiful, including a small natural arch.

That night we drove to Bryce, UT. In the morning, we rode horses in Red Canyon and in the afternoon we hiked in Bryce NP. It was quite cold all day and it threatened to storm, but never did. My horse, Buddy had a bit of an attitude.

We woke to snow and driving to Kanab, UT and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary . We spent the morning on a tour and cleaning the home of some cats with leukemia. Best Friends takes animals from all over the world that would otherwise be euthenized. While feline leukemia is highly contagious amoung cats, many cats can live long, comfortable lives with the disease. In the afternoon, we fed and walked dogs, including 3 of the ~170 dogs they airlifted for Beirut following the Israeli attacks their last year. The attacks destroyed the only animal shelter inLebanon, and Best Friends airlifted over 300 animals to Utah. All but these 3 dogs have been adopted (and they were quite good, adoptable dogs). Debbie fell in love with a Greyhound mix named Bill.

After our day of volunteering, we drove in the dark, fog, and snow to Tuscayan, AZ. We passed the Kaibab NF, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Vermillion Cliffs on our way. In the Kaibab, we met a hippie who was hiking from Flagstaff to Boulder, UT, and earlier in the day had been kicked out of coffe shop in a small border town, he suspects for being too close to the Mormon girls. The police gave him a ride to a shelter along the side of the highway and dropped him off.

The next 2 days we spend at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. On Friday we hiked and drove much of the rim, and on Saturday we hiked into the Canyon to Indian Gardens. On Sunday we drove to Vegas and stayed at the Luxor hotel, which is the world's largest pyramid. On Monday we flew back to RDU.

Other news: We're still tring to sell our Durham house.

Derek Webb Concert

Well, my first concert since moving to Raleigh last night at the Lincoln Theater. I went with several members of my church small group and some other church folks, organized by one of my high schoolers and all around great guy Andrew.
I had listened to some Derek Webb before (he's been featured in Paste magazine), and Andrew lent me his new album last week. I have to say I have a new artist on my favorite artist lists. Derek was formerly in a pretty good Christian band, Caedmon's Call, but has been on his own for 4-5 years. His music is good, the kind of rootsy stuff I like (he cites Wilco as an influence), and his lyrics are about as tough thought provoking as they get. He's still a Christian artist, but he writes out of frustration over the church, his own sinfulness, and the difficulties of living a life of faith, sometimes using strong language. You will not hear a Derek web song on K-Love. He encouraged the crowd to go buy a beer because the bartender was lonely (although I'm sure they were happy to have a packed house on a Monday night, even if most weren't drinking beer). He himself was enjoying a Red Stripe (I enjoyed my normal show beverage, a cold PBR).
His 7.5 month pregnant wife, Sandra McCracken opened and also backed Webb, along with Andrew Osenga. Alli Rogers was the first act.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Heaven and Hell, and Virginia Tech

Well, I expected to come home last night and update my blog with a bunch of great stories from a great vacation. They will come later. My world has been turned upside down.

My favorite preacher says he has a hard time understanding a God who would condemn his most favored creations to an eternal torment (with him there). But, everyday, he sees people who choose to bring hell (or alternately heaven) to this earth. So, he supposes, people who choose hell here and now could potentially choose hell for eternally. Yesterday, someone chose to bring hell to my slice of heaven on earth.

Very few people who know me, even only a little bit, don't know about my love of my alma mater and Blacksburg. I was born a few miles up the road, and my parents took me for walks on campus long before I can remember. This is the place I grew up, became my own person, met my lifetime best friends. I spend a lot of time and money travelling back to Blacksburg every fall to support the football team.

Watching the news last night, they were looking for someone to blame. Since the perpetrator took his own life, I guess we need to find another's head to serve up on a platter. They wanted to blame Virginia's lax gun laws or the laws prohibiting concealed weapons on campus. They wanted to blame the police or President Steger for not reacting to the first incident.

I'm not interested in blame. How, then should, we react? I know I will be sad for a very long time. Jesus, the first recorded time he taught in public, read from Isaiah 61 about a time when there would be no mourning, when our broken cities would be rebuilt, broken hearts would be bound, the blind would see, and the prisoners released. He also said that that time was fulfilled in his teaching. Was Jesus a liar? No, it means Heaven and Hell are our choices here and now. Our only choice then is to live as if the Kingdom of God is, as Jesus repeatedly proclaimed, here and now. We must be emboldened in loving our neighbor, feeding the hungry, healing the sick. The first thing I will do tonight is hug my wife and tell her how much I love her. And call my parents and sisters and tell them the same. Then I will head to my other alma mater (NC State) who is having a candlelight vigil tonight.

We all have had dreams for Tech. President Steger has dreams of Tech as a top 20 Research Institution. Many dream of football or basketball national chapionships. I've dreamed of working or retiring there. Now Tech will always be known for the Virginia Tech Massacre. Not the stuff of dreams. I hope these other dreams will persist.

If this happened at Tech for any reason, it's because we're one of the best equipped university communities to handle this sort of thing. We already had each other in our hearts. We already had a heart for service (Ut Prosim: That I may service). We've lost more students and alumni in armed conflict than any other university other than the service academy.

Thanks to all who have expressed their condolences. The university community needs your continued prayers.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Another Update

Well, the move went fine, other than Debbie spraining her ankle right before the trip to the Grand Canyon. The new house just doesn't feel like home, yet, but my drive to work is much better. I guess 7 years in the Durham house and Durham in general makes for a bit of transistion time.

I continue to read at a lighting pace, and have finished the Irresistable Revolution and also The Myth of a Christian Nation. I received both books when I went to the conference at Rob Bell's church in January. Both were outstanding, but since I finished the latter last night, I wanted to capture some thoughts on it.

Usually, when I read a non-fiction book, I either agree with it and like it, or disagree with it and dislike it. However, I have to say I really liked this book and disagrees with a quarter to a third of it. I can never remember not believing in God or attaching that belief to Jesus. I also can never remember not leaning towards democratic politics, despite growing up in the Southern Baptist church. (Both my favorite modern presidents also grew up Baptist and Southern. Confession time: I voted for Dukakis in my first presidential election!) When I was in high school, I decided that the peace and social justice of the gospels matched up much better with the ideals of the democratic party. I am still a Christian, and still lean left, but this book has convinced me they are much more seperate concepts.

Some things I liked:
  • The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man are entirely different concepts. A nation or a political party cannot put the earth right with it's Creator. Only God can do that, so we need to stop thinking politics is a road to redemption.
  • Jesus never sought political power, and as Christians (those who attempt to act like Christ) we should stop seeking political power and get about our commision to build up the Kingdom of God by revolutionary acts of love.
  • Likewise, Jesus did not act as a moral policeman for the world. He did point out errors in the way the religious leaders and disciples thought and acted, but Christians are not called to force everyone to conform to a certain moral code.
  • The whole idea of Chritianity as a social religion of America that does not have much to do with the Bible or Christ. Certainly the church often acts to establish basis of morality and social order for the country. As the author points out, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but also has little to do with following Christ.
  • America is not a new Israel. We are not called by God to be his chosen people. If we have been, we're doing a crappy job.

Some things I didn't necessrily 100% like:

  • America is not a Christian nation. I agree with a lot of what he says here, but also recognize that we are as Christian of a nation as has ever exisited. We have a lot of people going to church, talking publicly about their beliefs, claiming the faith, and we have the freedom to do these things. While it might not be a true faith according to the author (and I may agree with him), I don't see any other nation or time doing any better.
  • God doesn't care about freedom or democracy. I believe God rejoices at the religious freedom we have in much of the world, including the US, and I believe that this freedom is also present in God's kingdom. Our country compels us to do very little, other than pay taxes, which Jesus actually said was okay to do. There are no laws that prohibit us from living exactly as Christ calls us to do if we choose to live this way. Once again, I think if you look across time, we are in a very blessed position.
  • Christians shouldn't serve in the military. I think that a Christian could be called to serve in the military. Nations are given authority by God to promote justice and provide protection for its citizenry. For Christians to refuse to serve would therefore be irresponsible. I agree there is no such thing as a just war, and the particular war we're in now is non-sense. But, if anyone is to lay down their lives for their country, Christians should be participating. We should balance it, however, with standing up against unjust actions of our military.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The plans....

Wow, lots of stuff going on. We've got a lot to get done in the next 5 weeks. Fixing up the old house (getting ready to sell), hire movers, hire a real estate agent, etc.etc.etc. The new house went through inspection great, so that's a relief. One of the things we have to do is find a new home for small group. We talked a lot about it last night and there were some great ideas, some even revolutionary. But here are the key dates for the next few months:
  • March 30th close on new house
  • March 31st move.
  • April1st clean, clean, clean.
  • April 2nd, replace carpet in old house.
  • April 3rd, old house goes on market.
  • April 6 Good friday.
  • April 8th Easter.
  • April 9-16 vacation.
  • June 1-6 Debbie and Chris in Denmark (fun)
  • June 7-14 Chris in Denmark (work)
  • June 9-13 Debbie takes youth to camp.

Meanwhile, I've finished Phillip Yancey's book on Prayer, which was solid, and Rob Bell's new book, which is amazing. I'm starting Shane Claiborne's Irresistable Revolution (which I have a feeling is going to kick my butt) and The Kite Runner (which will hopefully be enjoyable) at the same time, hoping to finish both on vacation.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Catching up, again: UNC win, a birthday suprise, W visits!, New home

Well, I've wanted to a better job blogging, but things continue to be busy. Here's the rundown:
  • I was able to scalp tickets with my buddy Rusty to see my boys beat UNC on Feb 13th at Chapel Hill, 81-80 in overtime. Certainly the biggest win in recent Hokie memory Zabian Dowdell was on fire, scoring 33 points. I also went to the Feb 18th game at the RBC center versus NC State, but we won't discuss that one. Anyway, with 2 games left, the Hokies are in control of their seeding for the ACC Tourney: win both and get the #1 seed.
  • My wife threw me a suprise party with accomplices Justin and Monika on the Saturday before my birthday. First suprise party in 37 years of life! My college buddy Andy and his wife Brooke came down for the weekend to see the VT/NCState game, so they were able to be there. Monika and Debbie constructed a game of "Chris-tionary", which would be pictionary with all topics pertaining to me. Also featured was peanut butter cup cake from Stone Cold Creamery.
  • W visits work! While he's not my favorite president, it was certainly an honor to have President Bush visit my place of employment last Thursday. He visited to talk about alternative fuels, and the place was hopping with excitement. My only interaction was a "round table discusssion" that employees were allowed to attend, although he did visit my lab. All-in-all, while the event was completely staged, the President did a good job explaining the possibilities of an economy not tied to oil, and came off as down to earth with a self-effacing humor.
  • New house! Debbie and I are under contract to a new house in North Raleigh. It's a really exciting and scary time for both of us. I've been in Durham 7 years, and my life has really changed, especially spiritually. We're now leaving a lot of friends and moving farther away from a church that has been spiritual anchors. It will cut my commute in half, but will double Debbie's. Durham has been a great place to live. On the other hand, we got a great deal in a great neighborhood. Debbie plans to stop working when kids come, so it makes lots of sense to move closer to my work. Now on to inspections, loans, and selling our house! Prayers are appreciated for those who do.