Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Britt and I are staying at her parents' house in Wheaton, IL for vacation for the week. It snowed for a couple days right when we got here- a fluffy, powdery, dry snow that really is beautiful. So today we decided to go for a walk to enjoy the snow and one another's company, and for me to enjoy the new pipe I got for Christmas.

Thing is, when it's 25 degrees out and you want to go for a walk, you have to do a little extra dressing up. So here's what I wore:

On my head: my new winter trapper hat, which looks kind of like the one in the picture, minus the creepy manican head.

On my upper body: a t-shirt under a thermal under a sweater under a double-layered jacket. Count 'em, five layers.

On my lower body: boxers under my superman fleece pajama pants under my jeans. Superman fleece pajama pants are the new long johns, you know.

On my feet: short, thick songs, under taller, thick wool socks, under more short, thick socks, under beat up brown converse low tops. Note to all those who are spending time in the snow: beat up converse are worthless in that weather. No traction for the ice; no insulation from the snow. My toes froze, even under three pairs of socks.

What's the moral of the story?

It's this: as beautiful as the snow is- and it is beautiful- it is a massive pain in the rear to have to put on 12 items of clothing to take a 30 minute walk. Spending time with my wife and her family is lovely, and my new pipe, for those who wondered, was delightful for its first smoke (didn't have to relight once). But when it's that much work to take a walk on a day that the locals say is "warm" (I'm not kidding- they actually say that), well, you can keep your white Christmas. Like a good friend of mine says: weather is something you visit, not something you live in.

I'll put up a picture as soon as we get home and get the proper cable to move it from camera to computer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dances With Signs

So, this guy's pretty good at being a sign holder:


Monday, November 23, 2009

Selections from the National Geographic Photo Contest

The Big Picture, the Boston's Globe's photoblog, has 25 selections from this year's National Geographic photo contest. All of them are pretty remarkable, but my favorite is the very first one. What's yours?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Britt's Plan for What to Do Should One of Us Get Sick

Yesterday my good friend Michael, another newlywed like me and Britt, was wondering how married couples avoid catching all of each other's diseases. We talked about it at staff meeting for a little bit with the oldlyweds there, all of which I relayed to Britt when I came home.

But she didn't see as much need for counsel on the subject, because she already had a plan for how this will work:

When I Get Sick: I sleep on the couch, she sleeps in the bed. This way she doesn't get sick and gets to enjoy a nice, comfortable night before she has to get up and teach the next day. There's no way she's sleeping on the couch when she has a full day of rambunctious teenagers ahead of her (even though she falls asleep on the couch every night as it is and I often end up carrying her to bed...).

When She Gets Sick: Britt sleeps in the bed, and so do I. This way she doesn't have to deal with the physical discomfort of being sick and sleeping alone. I'll have to just suck it up and deal with getting sick as well. The only other solution is for me to call her mother to fly out from Chicago and share the bed with her while I sleep on the couch. But there's no way she's sleeping alone while sick.

Sounds about right...

Monday, November 9, 2009

The One Where I Preached the Gospel at the Pagan Club Event

Let me just recap the last couple weeks' events, climaxing at today's:

Fri., Oct. 23: I'm sitting at the conference for my church's denomination thinking about how we need to do more outreach, and this thought comes to me out of nowhere: "Why don't I go to Long Beach City College and set up a table with a sign that says 'Free Prayer' and see if we can meet people, pray for them, and tell them about the glory and love of Jesus?"

Sun., Oct. 25: I get to church and see Justin Botz, who is also excited about outreach/evangelism these days. I say to Botz: "Here's what we're gonna do: we're gonna go to LBCC on a Thursday and set up a table that says 'Free Prayer' and see what happens." Botz responds: "Holy crap. I was thinking basically the same thing the last couple days. Not necessarily about LBCC, but that we should do a free prayer thing." Weird.

Most of the week passes without my having the time to make things happen, until I start making calls on Fri., Oct. 30 to see if we can come to campus the following Thursday. We wanted to get all the right permissions and not infringe on LBCC policies.

Tues., Nov. 3: After talking to one Christian in the LBCC AS offices the previous week, I get directed to a woman named Jaymarie, who informs me that the place that they would allow us to go on Thursday is full for that day, but that we could come on Monday. I politely responded, "Well, we'd really like to come on Thursday: is there any way we can do that?" Jaymarie responded, "Let me ask the lady who would know." Jaymarie connects me to Beverly.

Beverly, of all of the faculty and staff at LBCC, is the faculty/staff sponsor of their Campus Crusade chapter. Plus, she's the secretary for the Dean in charge of this sort of thing. So she's excited about us coming and can help us out. She says that we could come Thursday over at one area, but that it wouldn't be as good. We agree to wait 'til Monday.

Thurs., Nov. 5: Justin and I go to LBCC anyway, not to set up the table, but just to get some face time with any requisite administration, make sure we're keeping up good relationships, and get ahold of any paperwork we need to get ahold of. So we go up to Beverly's office. When we get there, Beverly says, "It's great that you're coming on Monday, because the Pagan Club (yes, you read that correctly) is sponsoring a panel discussion in the room right next to where your table would be during the time you'd be here."

The flier she hands us says that there will be representatives of Sufism, Catholicism, Asatru, and Wicca for two hours discussing their religious views. Justin and I are elated at what is looking more and more providential all the time- how are all these details working themselves out like that?

Various Days between Thursday and Sun., Nov. 7: Justin and I, and later Kyle Lundquist, get together to pray about our time at LBCC. One thing keeps coming up: "Lord, somehow or another, get me on that panel so I can represent Christianity and share the gospel at this meeting."

Mon., Nov. 8 (today): Justin and I arrive at LBCC at about 9:45 a.m. and set up our table. A few people come by and we get to pray for them and hand them pamphlets that explain the gospel (kind of like tracts, but not crappy). Kyle and Dave Krall come join us at about 10:30.

10:45 rolls around, and the panel discussion starts at 11:00. Thanks to some encouragement from Dave and despite my faithless doubting, I walk into the room where the panel discussion will take place. There I meet Lisi, a member of the Pagan Club, and a nice young lady who will be hosting the event. I tell her I'm a pastor at a Baptist church just down the street and ask if I can get on the panel. She says "Probably not, but you can ask Dr. Novotny (the Pagan Club staff sponsor and an anthropology professor at LBCC) when he gets here. We only have four panelists at a time, and we do this every semester."

I leave, tell the guys it doesn't look good, and ten minutes later go back in. As I'm walking in, Lisi says to Dr. Novotny, "That guy" and points to me. I walk up to Dr. Novotny, tell him who I am, and he says, "Well actually, the Sufi Muslim no-showed, so it'd be really great if you could take his place."

I start to shake some as Kyle leans over to me and says, "How's that for providential?" I grab my Bible, my journal, and a pen, and take my place on stage. I am told that the format will include each of us getting fifteen minutes uninterrupted to explain our views.

The Pagan Club might as well have said: "Hey Andrew, would you mind coming and preaching the gospel to us? We're going to have all these competing religions here, and we just want to make sure that Jesus is proclaimed as the only source of real spiritual life, just so no one gets the wrong idea."

Of course, that's not what they said, but I nonetheless stood up and explained the story of the Bible with conviction after each of the other three folks talked about their rituals and festivals with minimal joy and no central message. I preached the gospel to 60+ students. It was amazing, and I cannot get over how much of God's providence I saw in all this. I talked to the Pagan Club folks afterward at lunch, and I also was able to hand out some pamphlets to a few students.

It was definitely one of the coolest things that I've seen happen in my life, and one of the clearest works of God's providence for His purposes. Remarkably, He also taught me some humility in all this as I sat down and thought, "I should've said this and this and this and this," as if God was saying, "I set this up for you, so you need to remember that it was I who worked, not you. You're not sufficient on your own."

No Lord, I'm not. But I pray that you will show Your perfect, complete sufficiency to sinners who need the grace of Jesus through my life more every day.

Pomplamoose Covering Michael Jackson's "Beat It"

While we're on the subject of sweet covers, check out this excellent version of Michael Jackson's "Beat It":

(HT: Dan Phillips)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Polyphonic Spree Covering Nirvana's "Lithium"

Awhile ago my Dad, brother, sister and I all went and saw the Polyphonic Spree play at the Henry Fonda in L.A., and as you might expect if you are familiar with the Spree, it was awesome. That night they covered Nirvana's "Lithium" as an encore, and I immediately loved it. Everything about this cover is right: the original song is good in the first place, the cover doesn't mess with the tempo, tonality, or melody significantly, and the covering band still has something unique to offer. In this case, that "something" includes orchestral instrumentation, a mini-choir, white robes, and the uber-happy style that defines the Polyphonic Spree.

Anyway, my Dad passed on the official music video for it, which is just the Spree playing it live with a high quality recording. But what more could you want for a video of this band doing this song? Enjoy:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ghetto Slang in Spanish, Brought to You By My Wife

Please, I beg you, go read my wife's post from today about teaching inner city non-native kids how to say things like "He/she is trippin'" in Spanish. It's hilarious.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Which Came First: the Cup or the Batting Helmet?

A little known baseball fact...
The first testicular guard (cup) was used in baseball in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1971. It took nearly 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

(HT: My Dad)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Dodgers Off-Season Priorities and Predictions

In the wake of tonight's loss to the Phils, it's time to forget about the past and look to the future. The following is my take on what the Dodgers need to do and what they will do.

What the Dodgers Need to Do

1. Shore up the Starting Pitching

I still don't get why everyone knocked the Dodgers' pitching this season when they had the best team ERA in baseball. It's easy to look at the NLCS and say, "Say, we were right." But that would be ignoring the NLDS and the fact that most of the problems in that series were aberrations compared to the rest of the season.

In any case, the Dodgers only have 3 starting pitchers coming back: Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, and Hiroki Kuroda. The good news there is that this is a solid group of 3. Billingsley looked like a Cy Young winner for two months, Kershaw looked like one for what followed, and Kuroda dominated in last year's NLCS (you might remember that as the NLCS in which Kuroda didn't pitch for the first time in 3 weeks...thanks for that one, Joe...).

The bad news is that that still only makes 3 starters. The best free agent pitcher available is John Lackey, and if they have the money, the Dodgers couldn't find a better place to spend it. Lackey is an excellent starter, plus he's got the physical makeup and history of a guy who, as near as anyone can predict, should stay off the DL. Perhaps they take the 17 million they will no longer be paying Jason Schmidt, put some of it into Lackey, and backload his contract since they'll be paying Manny 25 million next season (assuming that Manny picks up his option, which he unfortunately almost certainly will).

As for a 5th starter? That's a harder call, but I'd say either give someone within the organization a shot (e.g. Eric Stults, Ramon Troncosco, Charlie Haeger, Josh Lindblom, or Chris Withrow) or go for another reclamation project like they successfully did with Jose Lima, Wilson Alvarez, Jeff Weaver, Chan Ho Park, and so on. Mark Mulder is my #1 candidate for that idea.

Other guys I'd like to see them look into for either rotation spot: Ben Sheets, Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Randy Wolf, Tim Hudson, Carl Pavano, Justin Duchscherer, Brandon Webb. Any of those guys would be useful, and some would be great.

2. Get a Second Baseman

The O-Dawg and Ronnie Baseball will both be free agents, and I'd be glad to have either one back. Hudson is a class act, a great fielder, and for 3/4 of the year, was a dang good hitter. Belliard played great for a month- you gotta figure anyone would be energized by getting traded from the last-place Nats to the playoff-bound Dodgers, as he apparently was. Of the two, I'd be much less confident in Belliard for a full season. Dude's looking pretty fat for a two-bagger, for one thing...

The second base opening is where the Jon Garland for Tony Abreu trade never made much sense to me. Did the Dodgers really need Garland that bad? No, they didn't. He wasn't especially needed when he came over, and Coletti had to realize that the Dodgers would need a second baseman, right? Abreu has had real success on the big club but just got hurt. Add that to a .353 avg. in AAA, and I would have been happy to fill that position between him and Blake DeWitt, then use the money that would save on Lackey or another starter.

But that's not an option now. DeWitt is still a semi-viable internal option, but he hit around .250 in AAA this year, so despite some major league success he doesn't seem trustworthy. Also, the Dodgers minor league player of the year was a single A shortstop named Dee Becker who hit .300 and stole a whopping 73 bases. Still, he's a SS, that was in single A, and he also got caught stealing 25 times. Sounds like he's a couple years out to me.

My favorite idea outside the organization is Chone Figgins. I know he plays 3B for the Halos, but he used to play second, and I never got the idea he cared much where he played. Just imagine the day that Manny gets hurt and the Dodgers trot out a lineup that includes Furcal, Figgins, Matt Kemp, and Juan Pierre. Can anyone think of a team that ever had so much speed? I can't see it happening, but it's fun to dream.

Other notable options include trading for Dan Uggla (apparently he's on the block), or signing Mark DeRosa or Placido Polanco. It's really hard to say who they'll end up with next year, but my gut tells me it'll be either Belliard or Hudson again. I'm fine with that.

3. Bring Back a Good Bench

One of the clearest strengths the Dodgers had this season was the bench. Guys like Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus, Juan Pierre, Doug Mientcawiojagaowoz (does anyone know how to spell that guy's last name?), and Juan Castro go a long way for making a team good, and that was obvious this year. There are a lot of veterans out there worth looking into, and they need to do so: Ausmus, Loretta, and Mientkiewicz (there, that's it) are gone. I'd be glad to re-sign all of those guys.

How the Dodgers Will Actually Fare

1. The Bullpen Will Be Great Again

The Dodgers should have the best bullpen in baseball again next year. Broxton and Sherill at the back end is devastating (except in game 4 of the NLCS, which Broxton is never allowed to appear in again), and they have 3 legitimate other set-up men in Kuo, Troncosco, and Belisario. They even have Scott Elbert and Brent Leach as lefty specialists and an effective swingman in Jeff Weaver. The only guy they are losing is Guillermo Mota, which is completely fine despite that he was quite good for much of the year. A good bullpen is hard to find for a lot of teams, and it is the place where the Dodgers have easily the most depth.

2. Manny Will No Longer Be Manny

I guess another way to put that would be "Manny will no longer be that good." Post-steroids Manny is a guy who can't get his bat head around as quickly as he used to, which means he gets jammed a lot more. He'll still crush pitches that are over the plate, but when you can throw inside to Manny, he's just not so intimidating. No matter where they bat him in the lineup, he'll put up the number of a 6 hitter with the defense of...well...Manny. Think Giambi pre-roids and post-roids. Big difference.

This could be a big problem for this club next year, and my only hope is that he does something crazy (that's not that far-fetched is it? I mean, it's Manny!), and doesn't exercise that 25 million dollar option he has.

We could honestly see here just how much of a difference steroids make in major leaguers. Manny was one of the two most intimidating right-handed hitters in the game a few months ago. Now he's a pretty good hitter. Yikes. Baseball needs to event a steroid contract clause: if at any point in a season a player is caught taking steroids, the team he plays for can if they so choose nullify any remaining years after the one he is currently in. There is no way the Dodgers would pay Manny 25 million now that he's not the Manny they thought he was. No team should get so badly penalized because a player cheats and hides it well.

3. The Dodgers Will Win the Division Again

The Diamondbacks scared me in the beginning of this season, and they still have some weapons, but they're going to lose a lot of pieces, especially if they don't pick up Webb's option (or if he comes back and isn't healthy). A lot of things would have to go right for them to compete a Dodgers team that is mostly staying in tact. The Padres are terrible, no matter what they did the last third of their season.

The problem for the Giants is that even with such dominant starting pitching, I still cannot see them getting the bats they need to put everything together. One big hitter in the middle of the lineup would help, but they really need more than that. Sandoval is the real deal, but it's him and a bunch of guys right now, and that just isn't enough. Plus, Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito have some serious question marks. Their off-season will be interesting, but I can't see them getting back in. One last thing: an injury to Lincecum or Cain would paralyze them, and that's scary for any team.

Which leaves the Rockies. Thing about the Rockies is this: their starting pitching is getting much better, because Jimenez and De La Rosa are both really that good. Jason Hammel, Aaron Cook, and a rehabbed Jeff Francis could make a real good rotation. And apparently Jim Tracy connects with them as a manager, no matter how uninspiring he appears.

The thing is, the Rockies lineup doesn't wow me, and they need some key production to make it work. Guys like Brad Hawpe, Ian Stewart, Clint Barmes, Chris Ianetta, and Dexter Fowler have to prove that they can keep doing it, and I'm not totally convinced with that group. Plus, Helton isn't getting any younger, and Tulo has had some real rough streaks, despite his overall excellent season.

What separates the Dodgers from these teams is that they just have way fewer question marks. The young guys are getting older and better. Ethier and Kemp are real middle of the order threats, and hopefully Manny can keep something up too. Furcal finally looked healthy and back to form at the end of the season. You know what you'll get from Casey Blake every year. And so on.

The only question marks are in the starting rotation, and if past seasons have been any indication, Coletti will go out and get at least one more upper tier starter, maybe even two. This could very quickly turn from a question mark to a strength, and I for one am confident in the three guys that are locked in.

So there's no reason the Dodgers shouldn't win the NL West for the third year in a row. The one thing to remember? That they're the Dodgers, of course.

Maybe there will even be some extra magic for Vinny's last season. What better way for him to go out than with a World Series win?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Added Labels

Scroll down, and they're on the right. I try to be careful about properly labeling posts, so if you happen to care what I've said about this or that, scroll down and take a look.

That's all.


Ephesians 4:19: "...and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness."

Oh Lord, save us from callousness toward sin.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Best Thing Anyone Has Written/Said to Me In Quite Some Time

"By age four, I was about as much a dinosaur expert as a four-year-old can be. When I was 10, I dressed up as famed paleontologist Robert Bakker for Halloween....(Oh, man, you know what would have been awesome? If God had sent DINOSAURS to smite Sodom and Gomorrah!)."

-Rachael Warecki

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Funeral of a Faithful UPS Driver (or What I Hope They'll Say About Me When I Die)

Erik Thoennes told me some time ago that he loves going to funerals for godly people. That was a couple days before I went to see Britt in Illinois for the first time because my first evening there would include a funeral for a woman named Joanie who had made a point of praying for her throughout Britt's high school years. That was the kind of funeral Thoennes liked going to, and I understand why.

I never knew Joanie, and I only knew Aubrey Lee Culp (better known to those of us who knew him as a UPS driver as "Al") from my job at the Sunglasses Giant, where he would drop off boxes of sunglasses shipped by UPS every afternoon. When he died of a heart attack last week, Al had been working for UPS for 31 years. Talk about high energy, Al was the a short, stringy fellow who talked and walked and carried boxes a million miles an hour all the time. He was always joyful and often full of Scripture citations and general encouragement to "keep the faith".

So when he passed, Gregg Angier (my co-worker at "the Giant") and I were only too happy to attend his funeral. Strange how much you can like a guy who you only talk to for a couple minutes a day, but Al was that kind of guy.

I could not be gladder to have gone.

For one thing, the funeral was remarkably well-attended for a guy in a line of work you don't normally think of as "high impact" where people's lives are concerned. As mentioned, we only saw Al for a few minutes at a time, and we were 1 of 120 stops he would make each day (by the way, his replacement told Gregg that it will probably take two drivers to take over Al's route, because he was so good at what he did and so hard-working that he is literally irreplaceable by a single driver). Yet I always felt like we were the only stop Al made- or at least that he liked us more than the others. For that reason, UPS drivers, FedEx drivers, and presumably other retail employees packed out Living Waters Church in Chino, CA, along with his relatives and church family.

So it is not terribly surprising that every person who spoke could commend nothing higher than his daily faithfulness to Christ. Al exuded faithfulness. His daughters said that standards for husbands (both are now married, as of the day before the funeral) were through the roof because of the example of their father. Every day this man would work as hard as he could, yet he'd always be home in time for dinner. Dinner would be followed by some alone time for prayer. Every day.

One of his co-workers said that while he had known Al for 18 or so years, it was only over the last five months that they became better friends when they started carpooling. The guy said that it was only during that time that church attendance was definitely weekly in his life. In their daily drives Al would tell him, "You need to learn some verses" and taught him to memorize Scripture. No sense in wasting opportunities for Al.

Indeed, over and over the adjective that came up in the funeral was "faithful". Al was committed to Scripture, to worship, to prayer, and to loving his family. He made himself available to those most important to him, and he shared Christ with the people around him.

I suspect that despite being related to at least three pastors, Al Culp never preached a sermon in his life. That's not part of the job description at UPS. And yet hundreds sat in a church to commemorate his life. Apparently it isn't just the front-and-center type stuff that moves people.

It's folks like Al who make me wonder if all of our emphasis on doing great things for God misleads us to forget that what He wants most is daily dependance on Him. Al's life was an example of what that looked like, and I wonder if it's time more of us started praying to develop the kind of daily discipline required to live such a godly life.

Yes, I hope to become a good preacher. I love to play worship music that is creative, and I'd like to write a good worship song or two in my life. I want to lead non-Christian to know the overwhelming grace of God. And if I could write a book or essay or something that would help people know and see Jesus more, I would be thrilled.

But when my funeral comes, I am not so concerned that people stand up and say that I was a great preacher or guitarist or singer or songwriter or evangelist or author. These would all be lovely accolades, but because of their publicness, I find them easy to pursue. I also find that many of things can be performed with normal human skill even if there is no devotional life to back them up. Just ask the many great preachers who have blown up their lives with "big" sins.

What I find more difficult is the daily prayer, the daily self-sacrifical love for my wife (as easy to love as she is), and the daily witness of a faithful life. This is the stuff that I hope characterizes me, and that I hope people speak about when I die.

Thing is, when someone dies it is easy to stand up and wax eloquent about their character. Too often, that is more because they are dead than because it is true. For Aubrey Lee Culp, it seems that the accolades were spoken only for the latter reason. And so it was the funeral of a godly man that felt more like one last witness of faithfulness for those of us who need to be reminded.

So what of me and you? What will they say at our funerals? Will they wax eloquent, or will they speak truth? I pray it is the latter, and I pray that our Lord will send more men like Al to remind me of what is important.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Swindoll's Ten Leadership Lessons (with Some Personal Reflections)

JT posted these ten leadership lessons from Chuck Swindoll yesterday, and Swindoll is the real deal. It's normally more of a CiC type thing, but because I know my young friends who are already church leaders read this and because I thought this might be a better place for personal reflection, I figured I'd link it here instead.

These are issues that have been on my mind quite a bit recently, probably because God is trying to teach me something. Occasionally when He does that sort of thing, I attempt to listen, and in so doing I find that part of my listening involves discussing it with y'all (see how I'm being relevant to you, Trey and Erin and Tree?).

Here are the ones that stood out:
2. It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed.
Obviously, given his concern for "those who aren't even 30" (not that I'm necessarily as gifted or successful, but still...), this seems to apply. I go back to something I heard from Yoda (i.e. Dave Knaup) recently: Christian leaders' personal crap/sin issues will come to the fore at some point or another. The question is, are you going to confess your struggles to those who will lead you to repentance without blowing up your whole life, or are you going to let it take over your life until one day everyone finds out how sinful you are because you do something really stupid. I've seen recent examples of both, and I pray that more of us, myself included, would do the former. I wonder if this is part of the "crushing" that Swindoll has in mind.
3. It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary.
8. Integrity eclipses image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.
I suspect these do in fact go together, even if he didn't organize it that way. I am more and more convinced that what God wants most from us is daily, unspectacular faithfulness. He doesn't need us for the big stuff. He'll work that out however He wants, and it is our privelege to be a part of it. So I have to figure that what He wants from us most is simple dependance on Him and daily obedience. That is what will lead to us doing the big stuff, and that is what validates our ministry even more than the big stuff.
6. Brokenness and failure are necessary.
The troubling thing about this truth is that they suck so bad. 'Nuf said.

Lord, teach us to depend on you daily. Teach us to remember that when we were lost and rebellious and dead, you brought us home and resurrected us with new hearts. Remind us that apart from you we can do nothing. Show us how to do the daily things, like loving our wives like you love the church, praying without ceasing, abiding in your words, and becoming truly humble. To your glory alone, through the grace of Jesus alone, by the power of the Spirit alone. Amen.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Now That is a Pumpkin

From a series of fall pictures on a photo blog from the Boston Globe called "The Big Picture":

It's from a farmers' Giant Pumpkin Context in Massachusetts. Dude in the middle won with his pumpkin weighing in at 1471.6 pounds. I think you could actually make a carriage out of that...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Five Guys: The "In-N-Out of the East"?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love In-N-Out more than...well, more than most things. If you don't think In-N-Out is that good, you are obviously unreasonable and unable to contribute meaningfully to anything in life. And that's no overstatement.

So I was quite interested when my friend told me that a place called "Five Guys" was near the Guitar Center we were at, and that we should go there for dinner since it is regarded as the "In-N-Out of the East" (I'm assuming that he meant the east coast of the U.S., not the Orient, but I could be wrong). Apparently, it is now trying to become the In-N-Out of Cerritos...

I am always skeptical of wild claims about another company being on par with In-N-Out, but I have to say, I was pretty impressed. My burger came with a toasted bun and was tender and juicy to where my teeth sank right through it. I could get it with A1 Sauce (always good on burgers if you've never tried it) and the fries are, I hate to say it, better than In-N-Out's. Now, for a regular order of fries, a double cheeseburger, and a root beer, I had to pay 10 bucks, which immediately means that as good as it is, Five Guys is certainly not the In-N-Out of anywhere: Britt and I can both eat at In-N-Out for that much.

Still, despite my initial skepticism, I heartily recommend that if you're ever in Cerritos you head down South Street right between Pioneer and Studebaker, and go get a burger. I'll still take In-N-Out first, but I understand the rave reviews of Five Guys.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Elliot Smith, According to Elijah Smith

Eloquent post on the pop/folk songwriting genius Elliot Smith by Elijah Smith (no relation...). If you've only heard a little bit of Elliot Smith's music, the post is a good introduction. If you're a seasoned Elliot Smith veteran, it's a good reminder of why you like him so much.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obama the Jedi Knight

Holy crap. I knew there was at least something I liked about him:

Eat it North Korea, Iran, and Germany (hey, you never know with them...). The next four years are not the time to mess with us.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Exxon Valdez of Hall of Fame Speeches

The first line of Rick Reilly's piece on Air Jordan's Hall of Fame speech: "Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame talk was the Exxon Valdez of speeches."

As usual, incisive and insightful stuff from Mr. Reilly, even if it becomes clear by the end of the article that he has an axe to grind. Go read it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Minister's Prayer

From Valley of Vision (emphasis mine):

O My Lord,
Let not my ministry be approved only by men,
or merely win the esteem and affections of people;
But do the work of grace in their hearts,
call in thy elect,
seal and edify the regenerate ones,
and command eternal blessings on their souls.
Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;
Water the hearts of those who hear thy Word,
that seed sown in weakness may be raised in power;
Cause me and those that hear me
to behold thee here in the light of special faith,
and hereafter in the blaze of endless glory;
Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself,
and help me to experience the power of thy dying love,
for thy blood is balm,
thy presence bliss,
thy smile heaven,
thy cross the place where truth and mercy meet.
Look upon the doubts and discouragements of my ministry
and keep me from self-importance;
I beg pardon for my many sins, omissions, infirmities,
as a man, as a minister;
Command thy blessing on my weak, unworthy labours,
and on the message of salvation given;
Stay with thy people,
and may thy presence be their portion and mine.
When I preach to others let not my words be merely elegant and masterly,
my reasoning polished and refined,
my performance powerless and tasteless,
but may I exalt thee and humble sinners.
O Lord of power and grace,
all hearts are in thy hands, all events at thy disposal,
set the seal of thy almighty will upon my ministry.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Those Silly KJV-Onlyists

From an article titled "All Modern Bible Versions Are Corrupt!", arguing that the King James Version is the only Bible we should all be using because of its manuscript history:
Certainly the King James translators were the best scholars ever assembled to produce a translation that we can hold up today as our authoritative, trustworthy translation; but were those esteemed translators "inspired" in the biblical sense?Absolutely not!
I love the "Certainly" that starts it. "Well here's something we can all agree on!" Right.

This is kind of like when Mormon missionaries try to laugh with Christians about those crazy cultists, the Jehovah's Witnesses. "Can you believe those people and their weird Bible translation and knocking on doors two-by-two and all their strange eschatological views..." There's a definite human desire to not be perceived as a fringe group.

Same thing here though: "We don't believe the KJV is
inspired. Just that the translators were the best scholars ever assembled. Oh, and that all other Bible versions are because Satan is inspiring non-fundamentalists to corrupt the text by taking out all the references to the Trinity and the deity of Jesus."

Yeah, but you're not crazy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Best Blog Yet - "Awkward Family Photos"

Jay and Greg today did me the great service of telling me about a blog called "Awkward Family Photos".

It is exactly what it sounds like. Do yourself a favor and go check it out- especially you, Mrs. Allen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Hey Dude, Check Out the Helicopter I Made"

So, uh, this is a pretty impressive little craft...

The caption from The Big Picture (a super cool photo blog from the Boston Globe where I got this photo) says, "Farmer Wu Zhongyuan, 22, sits in his self-made helicopter in Jiuxian county, Henan province, China on August 1, 2009. The local government later halted Wu's plan to fly the helicopter out of safety concerns. The aircraft, powered by a 150cc engine, took Wu two months to build and cost more than 10,000 yuan ($1,460), China Daily reported. (REUTERS/China Daily)."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Luke Skywalker Had a Right to Be Angry

(Disclaimer: What follows is totally nerdy. I recognize that and am ok with it. I also recognize that using Star Wars as a jumping-off point for theological and cultural commentary could feel silly and/or like I'm pontificating. All of this is why I decided this was better for Farismaticism than CiC.)

Plenty has been said about the screwy pseudo-profundity of Star Wars theology, but I had to mention something I noticed when I caught part of the end of Return of the Jedi on t.v. last week.

So remember when Luke, Darth, and Palpatine* are all in the super Death Star at the end of that movie? Palpatine keeps provoking Luke to get angry since, as you know, anger and hate are two steps on the path to the Dark Side. And Luke really has to fight the anger when it becomes clear that the Rebel fleet has come right into a trap (we all remember Admiral Ackbar's reaction to that...).

Eventually the lightsabers start flying and Palpatine laughs in delight as he can feel the anger and the hate flowing through Luke. But Luke doesn't want to go to the Dark Side, so he keeps fighting it though obviously frustrated.

And here was the thought that came to this Star Wars semi-nerd's head: what a ridiculously stupid, shallow ethical ideal. You're not supposed to be angry about massive oppression and the looming murder of all of your friends and allies? Your once-good father has been corrupted into merciless (well, almost...) evil, and anger is not a proper response?

Wrong. Anger and hate are legitimate when their object is legitimate. It doesn't mean you should let those thoughts and feelings control everything you do, but if people didn't get angry about genuine evil then we'd probably still have slaves and no one would have challenged Hitler. If there was an indignant abolitionist movement on, say, Tatooine**, would its leaders be moving toward the Dark Side?

God feels hatred (Isa. 61:8) and anger (Deut. 1:37), and He has every right to. Jesus flipped over tables and snapped a whip in the temple (Jn. 2). John Piper hates the prosperity gospel. My wife hates it when people demean her inner-city students. All of this is justified.

The "Anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to the Dark Side" mentality is bigger than Star Wars. It's the ethos of moral thinking in America, normally rearing its ugly head as "tolerance." And when "family-friendly programming" is a synonym for "Christian programming," I'm afraid Christians have bit on the same massive bait-and-switch.

*"Palpatine" comes up as a misspelled word in the Firefox auto spell-checker. Idiots.
**But no spell check problems with "Tatooine?" This is just inconsistent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Maybe the Yankees Aren't So Bad After All

Everything evil in the world is embodied by the San Francisco Giants. If Satan cloned himself 24 times and the 25 of them formed a baseball team, they'd be the Giants.

Which means the Yankees aren't the worst thing to happen to sports, but they're pretty close. I suppose the Yankees would be like the team of demons just below Satan. Yeah, that's it.

Or maybe it isn't, at least occasionally. If you have any kind of a heart, you'll be forced to agree with me for just a few minutes when you read Rick Reilly's latest piece about what the Yankees did to bring a little fun to a bunch of kids who will develop deadly cancer if their skin comes into even the slightest contact with any UV rays (whether from the sun or fluorescent lights).

Pretty cool stuff.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Organic" is a Crock

My suspicions are confirmed: organic is a crock, both nutritionally and environmentally.

Well, I'm not convinced on climate change- not at all. But if it's true, then maybe organics help some. But here's the thing I've always thought was funny: you have to keep pests off of mass produced agricultural products somehow, right?

So my understanding is that farmers who grow "organic" crops indeed do not spray pesticides so that they can retain the "organic" label. What they do instead is introduce pesticides into the plant in the breeding process. I'm no farmer, and I'm not sure how it all works, but it tells you at least this much:

The plant still has pesticide. It's just a different kind, an easy way to charge more at the supermarket.

But maybe I'm a tad cynical...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

When a Pitcher Beats the Crap Out of You...

...you get embarassed. Today is the 16th anniversary of Nolan Ryan taking Robin Ventura to school. Enjoy:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A-Camping We Shall Go

Today Britt and I depart for Thousand Pines Christian Camps. Not exactly "camping", but we'll substitute the "roughing it" aspect of camping for the "roughing it" aspect of watching over high schoolers for a week.

In any case, pictures no doubt will follow, and my hope and prayer is that God will meet with us all and show us more of Himself this week. Stuff like this has the potential to change lives, and I'm eager to see how God will work.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Consolation of a Super Hot Wife

Last night I got home 45 minutes or so after Britt. When we were talking about how our days were, she mentioned that she was really excited that she had picked up her copy of Boethius's The Consolation of Philosophy and spent some time going back over it (you know, cause she's already read it once). "It's soooo good" she said, and I think she was also just glad to take a few minutes out of the never-ending stream of lesson-planning, grading, and grad school homework to read something she enjoys.

If you are a single man and you are reading this, I know what you are thinking. "Andrew, how can I find a woman like this wife of yours? How can I find a woman who is not only smokin' hot wife whose pleasure-reading is Boethius, thereby only making her hotter?" I understand where you're coming from. In the first email she ever sent me, Britt off-handedly and non-pretentiously referenced her previous night's time spent with Pascal. Naturally, I spent the next week doing whatever I could to make sure she didn't get away from me.

Oh, and to answer your question about finding a woman like Britt, I only know one answer: pray.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My New Favorite Website

Quick plug: any time you ever want to buy anything, use Consumer Search.

It has consumer reports on just about everything. When Britt and I registered for wedding gifts, I decided to research anything that had a lot of moving parts (e.g. blenders and vacuums) or that I knew nothing about (crock pots, pots and pans, knife sets). In that process I stumbled upon Consumer Search, and I use it for everything now.

It is totally free (unlike Consumer Reports), and I have used it to research tons of kitchen equipment, a gas barbecue, a clothing iron, a vacuum, and today, cell phone companies (not just cell phones- the companies themselves!). So far, I have been thrilled with everything that I have purchased on its recommendation.

It synthesizes reviews from all of the best sources (e. g. Consumer Reports, JD Power, Chef's Magazine, PC World, and whatever else is an important source for the relevant product), then breaks its recommendations down into categories. So when I wanted to buy a vacuum, it told me the best overall vacuum, the best budget vacuum (the category I usually use), the best handheld vacuum, the best bagless vacuum, and the best robotic vacuum. Amazing. It also gives pros and cons for each product (especially helpful when you are trying to figure out why the best budget vacuum isn't as good as the 3x more costly best overall vacuum), links to its sources' full articles right there, tells you which retailers have it at the best prices, and provides a breadown and explanation of what to look for when you purchase a particular product.

On top of all of that, the site is clean and easy to navigate.

So next time you ever need to buy anything, use Consumer Search. It's really, really helpful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When an 8th Grader Asks a Good Question

Sometimes I leave youth group on Wednesday nights and think, "Is this a waste of my time every week? Am I accomplishing anything with these kids?"

Tonight I began a series of sermons that I'll preach about the cross of Christ, following the layout of Driscoll's Death by Love. I didn't get much into theology, but just taught them about the sheer physical brutality of crucifixion, and therefore what Jesus surely went through. Then I asked them, "Why would someone so willingly go through that kind of torture?"

Because God loves us, I told them. Because even though everywhere they look people are unfaithful to them (be it significant others, friends, or in literally all of their cases, their Dads), the love of God never fails, even when it costs everything. There is real love that you can really count on, and we can see this clearly when we realize that at any moment Jesus could have run from the cross.

But he didn't. To quote mewithoutYou's newest album (which is different, but awesome, by the way):
and the night was cool
and clear as glass
with the sneaking snake in the garden grass
deep cried out to deep
the disciples fast asleep

and the snake perked up
when he heard You ask
"if you're willing that
this cup might pass
we could find our way back home
maybe start a family all our own"

"but does not the Father guide the Son?
not my will, but yours be done.
what else here to do?
what else me, but You?"

and the snake who'd held the world
a stick, a carrot and a string
was crushed beneath the foot
of your not wanting anything

Not wanting anything, that is, but the Father's will, which was to love unconditionally.

So anyway, another youth group sermon that I figured fell on deaf ears. Until this kid Tommy who'd only come once - an 8th grader - says to me as everyone's leaving and youth group has ended, "So Andrew, like what does Jesus' death on a cross mean?"

Not a waste of my time. Definitely accomplishing something. How come I find it so hard to trust that when I am simply faithful, when I am unspectacular but consistent, God works?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Digital Books? No Thanks.

I know that Kindle and digital copies of books are the new thing. I know that I read on a screen all the time because I read a lot of blogs.

But I just cannot see a digital copy of a book replacing an actual, physical book, no matter how accessible, portable, or cheap it comes. I like holding a book too much, and I write in my books too much.

That's all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the Goodness of Fresh Sweet Corn

If you aren't familiar with Garrison Keillor, well then I just feel sorry for you. Keillor is the host of the biweekly two hour radio variety show called, "A Praire Home Companion". PHC is a mix of everything that is good about American culture, in the folksy Americana sense. It always makes me feel like televisions don't exist and the highest form of entertainment, other than listening to Red Barber broadcast Brooklyn Dodgers games of course, is to sit in front of a big box radio and listen to folk music and story-telling.

Keillor is most famous for his hometown, Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, which doesn't exist. The stories of Lake Wobegon, normally told during the "News from Lake Wobegon" portion of PHC, is modern American mythology. It's great stuff, partly because no one (not even Vin Scully) has a better voice for radio than Garrison Keillor, and partly because no one (not even Vin Scully) tells a story so well.

Well anyway, Keillor wrote a couple books of Wobegon stories told, which my Dad tells me are not that good compared to his radio stuff. Maybe so, but this is a hilarious little piece from the preface of Keillor's Leaving Home, titled "A Letter from Copenhagen":
Sweet corn was our family's weakness. We were prepared to resist atheistic Communism, immoral Hollywood, hard liquor, gambling and dancing, smoking, fornication, but if Satan had come around with sweet corn, we at least would have listened to what he had to sell. We might not have bought it but we would've had him in and given him a cup of coffee. It was not amazing to learn in eighth-grade science that corn is sexual, each plant containing both genders, male tassel and female flower, propagating in our garden after dark. Sweet corn was so delicious, what could have produced it except sex? Sunday after church, when the pot roast was done and the potatoes were boiled and mashed and a pot of water was boiling- only then would Dad run out with a bushel basket and pick thirty ears of corn. We shucked it clean in five seconds per ear and popped it in the pot for a few minutes. A quick prayer, a little butter and salt, and that is as good as it gets. People have searched the world over for something better and didn't find it because it's not there. There's nothing better, not even sex. People have wanted to be as good as sweet corn and have worked hard to improve it, and afterward they lay together in the dark, and said, 'Det var dejligt.' ('That was so wonderful.') 'Ja, det var.' 'Men det var ikke saa godt som frisk mais.' ('But it wasn't as good as fresh sweet corn.') 'Ney.'

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Witherington on Mark, and Future Posting

What with the reviving of Farismaticism after the month layoff, I figure I should tell you what's on the agenda.

I have a new plan: read each of the four Gospels in Greek throughout the year while reading through one major commentary on each as I go. This is something I've wanted to do for awhile, but have finally started. So since I'm starting at the beginning of fifth month of the year, and in the future I'll be wanting to have the full three months for each Gospel mostly because of how long it will take this quite slow reader to get through some commentaries (e.g. Bock's 1600 pages on Luke).

In the mean time, since I only have two months for Mark, which works since it is only 16 chapters, I need to read twelve verses per day to finish at the end of June. I was going to begin with the oldest commentary that I own for each book, which for Mark means Bob Gundry's magisterial 1000 page work. But then I started realizing that it was taking my hours to get through twenty pages and thought better of it. Instead, the adventure begins with my second oldest, the 450 page work by Ben Witherington. Much more reasonable.

So considering this course of events personally (which, let's be honest, will probably not last more than a couple weeks before I give up...), I imagine a fair amount of my posts will be on Mark's Gospel in the coming months.

For starters, how about this beautiful introduction to Mark's opening scenes:
The opening scenes of the Gospel of Mark remind one of minimalist theater collapsing a world of meaning into a few concentrated images, or of a chiaroscuro painting, with vivid profiles etched in a dark, obscure backdrop. Punctuated by divine voices offstage and human cries at center stage, the prologue narrates the story of an invasion, throwing existence-as-usual into sharp relief. Prophetic muses, long silent, suddenly sing again. A messenger is announced and in turn heralds the advent, at long last, of one strong enough to wrestle the world away from the death grip of the powers. This leaders appears on the horizon of history, and in a dramatic symbolic action declares himself an outlaw. This immediately provokes a challenge from the prince of the powers himself, who takes the leader deep into the wilderness, where he disappears....In this prologue Mark wields the scythe of apocalyptic symbolics, clearing narrative space from among the weeds so that the seeds of a radically new order- to borrow the author's own metaphor (4:7)- might be pressed into the weary soil of the world. This subversive story is what Mark entitles good news.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The End of a Silent Month and My Wife's Blog

Most of you who read this blog do so because you are either (a) already friends of mine, (b) read Christians in Context and followed my link to it from there, or (c) already friends of mine who read Christians in Context.

Therefore, you know that I got married in the beginning of April. You also know that my wife started a blog all-too-cleverly titled, "Penny for your Watts". So before I say anything else, stop what you are doing and add it to your RSS feed. Seriously. Britt is witty, articulate, and has good things to say.

One reason she has good things to say is her internal makeup: she is brilliant and godly. But the other reason is her occupation. Britt is a high school Spanish teacher in Watts, CA. Watts, for those who weren't sure, is famous for hosting the "Watts Riots" some time ago. Not exactly a glowing reputation. It's the ghetto. South Central. A place that rappers talk about...

At this moment I ask you to take a look at the picture to your right. Note that Britt is a young, attractive white woman. Teaching Spanish. In the ghetto. It makes for all kinds of fun.

A snippet from her most recent post that I loved (but then, I could be biased...):
Never before in my entire life have I ever encountered a situation where disrespect is thrown about with such ease. As an educated adult in a room full of pubescent teenagers I do not expect bubbling adoration, but I would settle for common courtesy and not the "f" word every 5 seconds. I hate that respect is earned by fighting for it and then empathize with my kids who live this way day in and day out. No one bestows respect upon them unless they demand it. Demanding that respect usually looks like two fists swinging or a quick verbal lashing that cuts deeper than most punches. How do you teach a kid to give respect when all they've ever done is grudgingly give it to those who pull it from them? How do you convince them that the female standing in front of them may just have something worth hearing?
So all that to say, go read her blog.

In other news, now that the flurry of wedding bliss is over and I am settling into my new home with my wife, I plan on writing here a little more often. So in the off-chance that you care, you might occasionally have something to read here again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Thing We Didn't Get Palin

Shane Vander Hart pointed this selection from an op/ed by Noemie Emery in the Washington Examiner:
Now that the Obama presidency is nearing the 60-day mark, it’s time to thank those fastidious scribes on the left and the right who worked so hard to warn us against Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and the dire things that would surely occur if she ever got close to executive power.

How right they were to insist that she was unfit for high office. Let’s just imagine what she might have done:

As president, she might have caused the stock market to plunge over 2,000 points in the six weeks after she assumed office, left important posts in the Treasury unfilled for two months, been described by insiders as ‘overwhelmed’ by the office, and then gone on to diss the British Prime Minister on his first state visit, giving him, as one head of state to another, a set of DVDs plucked from the aisles of Wal Mart, a tasteful gift, even if they can’t be played on a TV in Britain. (Note, the Prime Minister, who is losing his eyesight, may even be blind in one eye).

As vice president, she might have told Katie Couric that when the stock market crashed in 1929, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went on TV to reassure a terrified nation. Or on her first trip abroad as Secretary of State, she might have, as the AP reported, “raised eyebrows on her first visit to Europe…when she mispronounced her “EU counterparts names and claimed U.S. democracy was older than Europe’s,” then gave the Russian minister a gag “reset” button, on which the word “reset” was translated incorrectly.

What a good thing that Palin, whom Christopher Buckley called “an embarrassment, and a dangerous one,” wasn’t in office to cause such debacles, and that we have Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton instead.

But frankly a fair point considering how badly Bush would've gotten reamed by the media for these gaffes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Two Tones of the Preacher, According to John Calvin

Dan Phillips live-blogged a conference in Sacramento. I didn't read much of it, but I thought this was a great comment from Steve Lawson on Calvin's view of preaching:

"Calvin said the preacher should have two voices: one for gathering the sheep, and one for fending off the wolves."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Life is Short

So don't get hit by a bus.

Beautiful reflections, Margaux!

Juan Pierre: An Unsung Hero in a World of Selfish Athletes

I'm glad Manny's back with the Dodgers. They need that pop in the middle of the order (especially considering their pitching staff) and he really does seem to positively influence the players around him. As a Dodger fan, it's great.

The guy who loses, of course, is Juan Pierre. The scraggly outfielder who was overpaid because of the market when he was a free agent has done exactly what the Dodgers paid him to do (i.e. hit around .300 as a legitimate lead-off man and steal a ton of bases- he stole 40 last year in 119 games, 34 of which he didn't start). And yet he's gotten nothing but flack from Dodger fans.

Not this one. I'm a National League, small ball guy, through and through. I love pitching, defense, and guys who can run. I always thought that if the Dodgers ever could have gotten a full, healthy year out of Furcal and Pierre together at the top of an order, it would have been an amazing one-two punch. Pitchers would have a lot of trouble focusing on the three and four hitters with those two guys on the paths.

But all that is really tertiary to my point for this post, which is that Juan Pierre has been about as much of a grown-up and class act as anyone could be in the midst of the Manny saga. Last year when he was playing behind Andruw Jones, and later Manny, Pierre played hard every game and never complained (even when his consecutive games played streak was snapped at 434). The only comments you ever heard from him were things like, "I understand- we're trying to put the best team on the field and I want to do whatever it takes to still help us win." That's not a direct quote, but that was his constant tone.

And earlier this offseason when the Manny talks resumed, Pierre started asking for a trade if they got Manny back. Was he bitter? Nope. Again, he understands, but the guy just wants to play ball.

Here's what Pierre had to say about the re-signing:
I understand the situation, and if they hadn't signed Manny, it would have been a surprise. I'm not bitter about it. I totally get it, you know what I mean? But I want to play. So they gave us permission to talk to teams and try to find a situation that can work out for everybody, and that's all I can ask for...
I told [manager Joe] Torre today that I totally understand what's going on, and he said he would try to get me in there whenever he can. I have no beef with that. I told Joe I will be the team guy I've always been.

Look, Manny is Manny, and they've got two kids in Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, and they can play. They had a chance to get Manny for free last year and they had to do it. Now, nobody is bidding for him, they had to bring him back. They kept me because they didn't want to be left with two outfielders. I'm not saying I'm OK with it, but I understand. It's just an unfortunate situation for me.

Juan Pierre wants to play, and he plays the game like it's supposed to be played. He runs out every ground ball. He never complains. He's giddy when he hits that rare home run.

Yesterday Terrell Owens, a guy whose talent is as high as the dollar amount on his paycheck, got cut by a football team after another productive season. Why? Because he can't get along with his quarterback. T. O. got thrown more balls than any player on his team last year and complained anyway.

The T. O.'s of the world need to take a lesson from Juan Pierre: it's about the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. For that matter, it's about being a man, not a boy.

As a Dodger fan, I hope Pierre sticks around- he's a useful fourth outfielder with all that speed. But as a guy who respects Juan Pierre, I hope for his sake he finds a trade and can play every day somewhere. If anyone deserves it based on character and attitude, it's Juan Pierre.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Derek Thomas posted today on Nehemiah's expression of real, strong anger in Neh. 13 at the sin of God's people even after He had restored them to the land. He quotes Packer's A Passion for Faithfulness,
What we must bear in mind here, however, is that the conventions and expectations of our smooth post-Christian, relativistic, secular, amoral Western culture are not necessarily in line with the truth and wisdom of God. Any embarassament we might feel at Nehemiah's forthrightness could be a sign of our own spiritual and moral limitations rather than his. Was it weakness that in Nehemiah's code of conduct the modern shibboleth, "thou shalt be nice" seems to have had no place, while "thou shat be faithful to God and zealous for God" was evidently basic to it? Would Moses, David, Jesus, or Paul ever have qualified as "Mr. Nice Guy"? The assumption, so common today, that niceness is of the essence of goodness needs to be exploded. Nehemiah should not be criticized for thinking that there are more imprtant things in life than being nice. (p.182)
Great stuff from Packer and Thomas, reminding us that what God desires from us is not just to be "nice" but to be jealously faithful for the glory of God and to hate sin because it kills people and takes away from that glory.

Go read the whole thing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Tyrannical Communist vs. the Homophobe - An Internal Battle?

Today I was reading at a Starbucks in Orange (South Orange County, CA) when I saw a college age-ish hipster come in with his longboard, trendy jacket, skinny jeans and of course, messenger bag.

Not that there's anything wrong with messenger bags- I had mine right next to me. But this guy not only had a "Prop H8" sticker on his longboard, but a rainbow ribbon and a bunch of buttons pinned to his messenger bag, two of which read, "People who believe in hell deserve it" and "Boycott homophobia."

The funny thing about it: his messenger bag was a Mao bag. That is, it had a big red Chinese communist star smack in the middle of the otherwise plain beige canvas bag.

As if communist systems like that one didn't oppress homosexuals probably more violently than the vast majority of folks who voted yes on Prop 8. My guess is that he wears the Mao bag just because it is funny or a cool bag. Either way, it was a hilariously ignorant walking contradiction.

Barbie the Jew?

I thought this one sentence from Al Mohler's post today on Barbie was just amazing: "In Saudi Arabia, the government's Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice once denied Barbie entrance into the kingdom, complaining that she is 'Jewish, with revealing clothes and shameful postures.'"

Who knew?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What God Really Cares About

2 Chronicles 30 recounts Hezekiah's re-institution of Passover after both the southern and northern kingdoms had neglected it for some time.

Verses 17-20 stand out:
17 For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to consecrate it to the LORD. 18 For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, "May the good LORD pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness." 20 And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
The Law prescribed ritual cleaning before people could celebrate Passover. But the four tribes mentioned in v. 18 were in the northern kingdom which had gone so long without godly leadership that such parts of the Law were totally lost on them. But Hezekiah invites them to come back to the Lord and prays that God will be gracious.

And he's right on the money to do so. From the beginning, the whole point of the Law was to mediate a relationship between God and man, not just cold obedience to details. Of course, God prescribed those details for man's good, so as a person walked with God, he should have been submitting himself all the time to the whole Law. But what God always wanted was the Law to be on a person's heart (Deut. 6:6-7; 11:18-19; 32:46).

That is, what God really cares about is your heart.

Not according to the contemporary notion that suggests we are all basically good and all religions are basically the same, so as long as you are doing your best, God doesn't care too much about the details. No: God is jealous for our faithfulness like a husband is jealous for his wife's, and that is by no means petty. He wants us to serve Him and Him alone, and He hates anything that competes with that. And to be sure, that is certainly for our own good as there is no greater joy than to know the one true God.

What I mean is that God does not care so much that you go to church, read your Bible, or even, for some of us, have a paid pastoral position in a church, if your heart is not first bent on seeking to know Him above all else. If it is, then you should be doing those things- I am by no means rejecting the importance of discipline in our spiritual lives.

The point is this: set your heart on the Lord and Him alone. He will be gracious toward you when you miss the details.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Doug Wilson on Christian Marriage and the Necessity of Church Involvement

Maybe it's just because I've been thinking so much about marriage with mine coming up so fast, but this is a really insightful comment on Ephesians 5 and Christian marriage:

The apostle Paul tells us that it is the love of the husband for the wife, imitating the love of Christ for the Church, and the respect of the wife for her husband, imitating the submission of the Church to the Lord. There it is--at the center of marriage is self-sacrificing love, and self-sacrificing respect.

But notice that these are not presented to us as stand-alone character traits. Paul is saying far more than "husbands, be nice," or "wives, be sweet." He is saying that husbands must imitate Christ's love for the Church, and this cannot be done [if] the husband despises the Church. If the husband is thinking to himself, "I don't know what He sees in her," he is in no position to love his wife properly, as commanded. And if the wife has no interest or stake in seeing the Church submit to Christ properly, then she is in no position to imitate that respect in her own station. The husband and wife are not being called to imitate the relation of Christ and the Church, a relation which is somehow "over there." They are doing this from within, they are doing it as members of Christ, as participants in the union between the last Adam and His bride, the last Eve. Another way of saying this is that at the center of every godly marriage, we find the Church.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Oh Geez, We Have to Eat with Hitler?"

Right when we thought Hitler couldn't have been worse, we read something like this...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Light and Truth, Figuratively and Actually (or Why I'm Not New Age)

Psalm 43:3-4 (ESV) reads: "Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God."

My first thought as I read this was that the emboldened words and phrase all remind me of the language that surrounds Jesus, both from him and the narrator, in John's Gospel. Jesus is the "true light" (Jn. 1:9), "full of grace and truth" (1:14), the "light of the world" (8:12), and the "way, the truth, and the life" (14:6). Further, he is the Word-became-flesh who "dwelt among us" (1:14, where the Greek for "dwelt" is the OT word that describes the tabernacle, where God's presence was centrally located in Israel) and the major thrust of Jn. 2:13-22 (the cleansing of the temple passage) is that Jesus is the temple.

In short, John presents Jesus as the truth and the light that leads us to God's presence, whcih is found in Him.

Considering how steeped the Fourth Gospel is in the Old Testament, it is reasonable to think that John and Jesus may well have had Ps. 43:3-4 in mind when they used all of that language.

But this is more than just fun Biblical intertextuality (though it certainly is that). It appears that in Ps. 43:3-4, light and truth are figurative. The Psalmist pleads with God to send His spiritual light and truth to lead back to His presence.

When this language is applied to Jesus though, what for the Psalmist is figurative becomes quite actual. Of course, Jesus was not a beam of light, but He was and is physical. He doesn't just provide light; he somehow is light. He doesn't just speak truth; he somehow is truth. And he doesn't just lead us back to God's presence; he is God's presence. The Psalmist never could have expected just how fully God would answer his prayer!

All of the figurative light, truth, and God's presence language in Ps. 43 is still pretty common today, and not just for Jews and Christians. It sounds quite a bit like the language of all kinds of New Age spirituality, doesn't it?

But for the New Age spiritualist, all that "light" and "truth" and even "presence of God" language is even more figurative than it is for the Psalmist. New Age spirituality in all its forms (think Unitarianism and other mysticisms) is obsessed with the incomprehensible, mysterious aspects of God, such that almost all of the langauge is ultra-figurative, broad, and vague.

And I understand the appeal to that in one sense: no doubt much of evangelical Christianity in America has been all too comfortable with the God of the universe. He does seem rather "figured out" in many of our worship services, doesn't He? But the obsession with mystery never gets you anywhere: how can you have any real relationship with someone you can't really know at all?

It also flies in the face of one of the most precious Christian teachings, namely that Jesus Christ is the ultimate unique revelation of God. What I love about being a Christian is that I get somewhere with God. Knowing Jesus means knowing God. It means knowing Him truly even if never fully (oh and be assured- you never know Him fully). I can once affirm that God is both incomprehensible and knowable.

And I can only affirm that because Jesus came as the true light that leads us to God Himself, sent by God to reveal God to all of us. If God sent us the true revelation of Himself that leads us to Him, why are humans so hesitant to embrace it in favor of dead-end vagueness? He wanted us to know Him, and that is for our good.

New Ageism has never appealed to me for precisely this reason. How often the New Age-ist seems to say much without ever really saying anything! I never want to have God "figured out," but I do want to know Him, and I want to know Him actually. I rejoice that I can do that in Jesus.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Scratch. Just Tear.

Ian Clausen, a good friend of Britt's and now one of my friends, is a Ph. D. student at Edinborough studying with Oliver O'Donovan. He also is a godly guy who wrote a great reflection on the weight of sin and our need to absolutely run from it. Here's an excerpt (NB: the reference to "promises" in the second and third lines refers to the promises that sin makes but does not follow through on- the empty promises of sin):
‘How can a young man keep his way pure?’ (Ps. 119.9) Eyes fixed on true things do not suffer illusions. Whence derives the source of the promises we trust? What is the quality of those promises for which we hope? I know God; I love Jesus; I have the Holy Spirit; and still, I suffer to give the shadows of this world a voice. Feel those sinister sensations flow through the veins: melt slowly into the dream, slide deeper into the illusion, lunge faster toward the apparitions, clutch tighter onto the incorporeal, empty atmosphere. Wake up to a nightmare, a mirror producing an image the sight of which you can hardly recognize. The next move is the last: full turn away, the darkness whispering the promise again, we inclining in its endless, aimless direction. We grasp at shadows, and lose our souls.
Read the whole thing.