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.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Mars Hill Report: I've been called out!

I've been called out by another blog for not posting my thoughts on the Mars Hill Isn't she beautiful conference! Yes, Erik, my thoughts are "marinating". I'm having a hard time thinking about how to couch my thoughts, because so many people have blogged and recapped and I don't know that I have much to add, despite having a million thoughts running around in my head. So here's a few random thoughts:
  • It was mainly a pastors conference, and I am not a professional religious person. It was really designed as a retreat to inform, yes, but also energize pastors. I went for 2 reasons: I am a Rob Bell groupie, and to support my BIL who is on a sabbatical year from ministry. I thought it was awesome that Bell/Mars Hill did this because professional religious people are so often called to energize people and do not often get a chance to relax and retreat and be energized.
  • Mega church blues: Some have criticized RB/MH for being so large and also "bragging" about not marketing the church. I experienced first hand the resistance they put up to be a mega-church: there is no sign and they scheduled the conference in January in Western Michigan. He talked about how large they got so fast (including bringing hundreds of people from Calvary Church in Grand Rapids and having a following due to his membership in a local rock band) and how they resisted it (no sign, preaching from Leviticus the first year). Some people take it as bragging, but hearing it in person he thinks getting that big almost killed him (read Velvet Elvis for more insight). His repeated advice: "Start it small. If it won't go in your living room, it won't go." I have long believed that our best evangelism would come from being the church God wants us to be. Maybe they are just doing it.
  • Similarities: There are many similarities between MH and a normal church. The music is very good, but not that much different than a good contemporary church. I went to the student ministries breakout and I didn't see much revolutionary in the administration of their youth group. I would guess the same about the children's ministries.
  • Differences: Theology (I missed the narrative theology break-out), mission (I went to break out lead by the head of their Global Outreach Department, how cool is that?), simplicity (seriously stripped down service), dealing with the hard stuff (in scripture and in life) yet positive and fun. There are a lot of scholars who go to the church and the staff uses them, which I think is cool.
  • Transparency: Rob Bell told us exactly how much money they brought in for the conference ($195K ), how much they spent ($40K, "for lanyards and such") and where the rest of the money was going ("we're giving it all away"). We funded a water treeatment system for a school in Rwanda, a microloan program in Burundi, and a microloan program in Grand Rapids.
  • Service: the last session was a mostly a service of healing, with lots of singing, communion, and the elders and pastors of Mars Hill up front to pray for you, annoint you with oil, hold up the chupa for you to pray under. RB preached for 15 minutes or so. There was a cross on the stage in the middle of the stage if you wanted to pray under that. It was awesome (I told my BIL in was the closest I had ever come to being in a cult, meaning, if folks walked in from the outside, they would have wondered what the heck was going on). What really struck me was how ready and enthusiastic the elders and pastors were to serve. They were so gracious and supportive. I mostly just sat back in my seat and took it all in.
  • I am no longer young and cool. OK, I was never that cool, but as I approach my 37th birthday in a few weeks, I was surrounded by a group of people who were much younger and hipper than me. I take great hope in that.
  • I listened to a 2.5 hour sermon with 33 scriptural references, and gobbled it all up. How awesome is that?
  • Big Conclusion: If I were to take what I learned from the week and start a "Rob Bell-esque" church, it would not focus on preaching. I don't know anyone who can teach like RB. If that is what you need, you can download it every week like I do. It would focus on: mission, stripping away the non-essentials, focus on mission.