Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The End of Poverty

"The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs was what I would consider a bold book. Basically, Sachs claims that it is possible to eliminate extreme poverty for the 1.1 billion people in the world currently living in it by the year 2025.

The book could be divided into three parts. The first part is what I would call "Global Economics 101" as Sachs paints with broad strokes the issue of global poverty, how it starts, and why it is difficult to fix. The second part is case studies of different nations that Sachs witnessed and even helped to come out of economic turmoil.

The final, and most in-depth part of the book, was Sachs plan to end extreme poverty by the year 2025. He argues that it can be done by the world's richest nations (read United States) donating just .7% of their GNP (Gross National Product). Obviously it will also take a major organizational effort to distribute the funds and to provide clean drinking water, a sustainable source of food, and basic health care, etc, and Sachs briefly touched on this.

I was impressed by Sach's intrepid attitude that extreme poverty is something that could be fixed. I am certainly not intelligent enough to wrap my brain around this huge issue and offer any type of opinion as to the validity of Sach's claims. I do believe that I have to do my part on an individual level to live in such a way that others are able to simply live, which will hopefully have an impact on my family, and then my community, and then hopefully will continue to have a ripple effect that will extend to the entire world.

Next, I will be reading a book, "The White Man's Burden," which I have been told is a response to Sach's, so I will be curious to see how this will bring a new perspective.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

the god's aren't angry

A few weeks ago Laura and I went to hear Rob Bell on his "the god's aren't angry" tour. I have heard Rob Bell preach through his podcasts at Mars Hill, and I have read both of his books, so I was excited to hear/see him in person. I came away not disappointed in any way. He spoke for about an hour and a half on the origins on religious thought and how the revelation of the Judaic/Christian God was a radical alternative at every point in history to the "gods" created by humans.

As it has been a few weeks, the following 2 thoughts remain with me:

1. He really explained well this idea of progressive revelation. For example, it is easy for us to read the Old Testament and pass it off as barbaric and oppressive. However, Bell did an excellent job of putting it in its context and showing the ways that the OT was transformative and life-giving. Basically, the OT declares that you can know where you stand with the God of the universe, which was a main problem of the ancient mindset (ie not knowing where you stand with the gods).

2. He also did an excellent job of pulling everything into a present context. He gave examples and stories of how these primal urges and fears are still present today. People are still chasing after invisible "gods" and responding to urges such as self-mutilation and hopelessness.

All in all, it was a solid teaching and I would definitely recommend checking it out once it comes out on DVD.

By far the most interesting part of the evening took place after the teaching. Outside, a few loud "protesters" had gathered, preaching "turn or burn." One guy had a big sign that said "God is Angry with your Sins" and another guy was pounding a bible while telling everyone they needed to repent or go to hell. At first I laughed out loud because I thought it was a joke, but I quickly learned that they were dead serious. It left a really awkward feeling inside of me and I felt embarrassed for them and for myself. If outsiders to the faith are turned off to the concept of being in a relationship with God because of examples like I saw that night, I do not blame them, I was pretty turned off myself.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

"The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami was another book on my classical literature list. In reading these works of classical literature, I have been really impressed with the writing capabilities of the authors. In the case of this book, Murakami was able to write a 600 page book based on the simple plot of a man whose wife mysteriously leaves him. Even though the plot was simple, it was still really interesting.

Murakami is a Japanese author and the setting of the book is in Tokyo. I was surprised at how similar the characters were culturally to Americans. In fact, I do not recall at all ever being confused about something that could only be understood in a certain cultural context.

I am not sure whether or not I liked the book. It kept me interested the whole time and I really enjoyed the writing style. However, the book ended with too many loose ends. A lot of mystery was created and nothing much was resolved in the end. The more I recall parts of the book, the more I realize that Murakami never gave any resolution to the story lines he developed. Overall, it was a solid piece of fiction and certainly worth reading.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I generally despise television game shows, but I have to be honest, I love Jeopardy! I love that players match wits on random subjects. I love that they have to buzz in to answer. I love that they answer in the form of a question. I love the clever categories and questions. I think Alex Trebek is a smooth guy. I love the intangible aspect of the daily doubles. I love that there is a strategy to betting with the money you have earned. I love that you have to put it all on the line in Final Jeopardy! I even love that it has an exclamation point in the actual title!

However, there is one part of the show that drives me bananas. The first commercial break takes place halfway through the first round. After the break, Alex Trebek is waiting to "meet" the players. He spends about a minute with each contestant, and it is always extremely awkward. It has little to do with the debonair Trebek and everything to do with the fact that the majority of the contestants are eggheads with zero personality.

The conversations are always about something that is supposed to be "interesting" about the contestant. I am sure that they have to fill out some card before the show with their name, where they are from, and then there is the spot that says "Something interesting about you..." I can just see the contestant struggling to put something down, recalling that their life has mainly been about reading books and spending time with a computer.

For this reason alone, I will never attempt to be a contestant on Jeopardy! I also feel bad for Mr. Trebek, who has to laugh at their poor attempts at humor and give the appearance that he is actually interested in their coy quips.

This definitely needs to go on my list. Here is how it now stands:

1. Wearing a cell phone on your hip
2. The idea that a nice smile is the "normal" way to pose for a photograph
3. People who cut to the front of a traffic back-up when they know they need to get over
4. Local TV Newspeople
5. Confirmational Reactionist
6. Wearing a blue tooth headset as a fashion accessory
7. Putting Bullethole stickers on your car
8. Placing a fake baseball on your car that gives the allusion that it has shattered your window
9. People who litter
10. Ignorcycles
11. Bumper stickers
12. Cheesy Church Signs
13. The player introduction part of Jeopardy!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Christopher Hitchens is an atheist, and he is not shy about it. Unlike some atheist, he is not indifferent toward religion, he is angry about it. This book is a 283 page rant that painfully spells out the ills of religion. Hitchens does not pull any punches on any form of religion, although he does tend to concentrate the most energy on Judaism and Christianity. Each chapter has a loose structure for providing an angle for revealing examples of how religion has destroyed lives and wreaked havoc.

As I was reading, I could not help but think that the same examples that Hitchens was using could also be applied to governments and nation-states. Hitchens solution to the problem of religion is the hope that it will just go away. Should the same be said for governments and nations? The truth of the matter is that every single type of institution that exists has been or will be guilty of some great atrocity.

My biggest problem with this book was that Hitchens never really offers an alternative for living well. He spends a small part of the end hoping for a New Enlightenment where humans will be able to overcome the myth of religion, but he is not able to offer any type of vision for a better world.

My knee-jerk reaction throughout my reading of this book was to argue Hitchens at every point and essentially say, "Yeah, but..." I tried really hard to read with an open mind as I was engaging someone who obviously thinks very differently from me. I think that all too often Christians are quick to argue and debate, while being slow to listen. The more I learn about God, the more I am convinced that God does not need humans to argue for God's existence or defend God's sovereignty. God is perfectly capable of taking care of God's self. Reading this book with this attitude allowed me to come to the conclusion that I think Hitchens may be right - religion has caused unnecessary pain and suffering and grief. Perhaps Christians should begin to focus less on the noise of apologetics and more on the practices of confession and repentance. Perhaps we should more concerned with modeling lives of love than being "right." Just a thought.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cheesy Church Signs

Last night Laura and I hung out with some friends who live several miles outside of Raleigh. We were hoping to find a grocery store to bring some food, and while we drove for 45 minutes before finding one, we did come across several rural churches. Most of those churches had a sign out front - the type of sign that allows one to spell out a custom message.

I kid you not, we honestly saw the following 3 church signs, right in a row.

1. SOULED OUT - What does this mean? If it is referring to being sold out, does that mean the church has no more room for souls? If you take it literally, does it mean that the church's souls are out, that they have no more soul? I think the church probably meant they are souled out for Jesus, but it did not say that and I am not sure what that means either.

2. BECOME AN ORGAN DONOR: GIVE YOUR HEART TO JESUS - This is a terrible attempt to be witty. If I passed that sign and was in desperate need of a lung or other organ transplant, I would be extremely offended.

3. ALL IS WELCOME - On the one hand, this could just be a poor use of English grammar. If this is the case, you should never be in charge of a church sign if you do not have a basic grasp of the English language. On the other hand, "all" can be used in the singular sense if it is referring to a specific group. In this case, the church is communicating: "Everyone is not welcome, only all of one specific group (which we are not identifying) is welcome." Either way, it is a bad sign.

What compels churches to have these signs? Who takes the time to come up with the "clever" sayings? Has this ever been an effective means of doing anything positive? I think that all these cheesy church signs manage to accomplish is provide people with reasons for avoiding church.

Before I add this to my list, I found this cool website where you can make your own church sign. Check it out here. You can have a lot of fun with this website!

Here is the current list:

1. Wearing a cell phone on your hip
2. The idea that a nice smile is the "normal" way to pose for a photograph
3. People who cut to the front of a traffic back-up when they know they need to get over
4. Local TV Newspeople
5. Confirmational Reactionist
6. Wearing a blue tooth headset as a fashion accessory
7. Putting Bullethole stickers on your car
8. Placing a fake baseball on your car that gives the allusion that it has shattered your window
9. People who litter
10. Ignorcycles
11. Bumper stickers
12. Cheesy Church Signs

Colossians Remixed

"Colossians Remixed" by Walsh and Keesmaat was a bold interpretation of Colossians intended for the 21st century. I was really impressed with the scholarship that went into this book. Walsh and Keesmaat did a terrific job of drawing from a wide variety of solid sources.

The book had several components to it. First of all, it shed light on the context of Colossians and argued that this letter was a subversive and politically charged letter that directly confronted the empire of Rome. The authors then attempted to retell the story of the letter in light of our current global empire of consumerism. The book was written to engage the postmodern mind and even argued that the postmodern desire for choice and diversity is really a false cover-up for the idolatry of global consumerism.

Many of the ideas in the book are pretty heavy, and would take up too much space to try and explain in this blog post. My reading of this book left me with the impression that no Bible study or sermon on Colossians should be done without at least consulting this book.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bumper Stickers

I believe that your parents help to shape a lot of who you are as a person. My parents have influenced me in a number of ways, one of which is in relation to bumper stickers. To my knowledge, my parents have never put a bumper sticker on any of their vehicles. Likewise, I am proud to say that I as well have never put any type of sticker on my motor vehicles.

I have this theory that bumper stickers are a good indicator of your sanity level - the more bumper stickers you have, the more likely you are to be insane. All of us have seen those cars (usually a beater or a Toyota Prius) where every single inch of the back is covered with bumper stickers - yeah, those people are usually crazy.

I wonder what possesses people to actually put a bumper sticker on their vehicles. I know people want to be heard and to communicate, but is a bumper sticker ever an effective means of doing this?

The most memorable bumper sticker I have seen was on this beat-up, rusted-out old dirty van. On the back was a bumper sticker that said: "Don't laugh, your daughter is in the back" That is just disturbing.

There are so many types of bumper stickers that annoy me. Below are a few:
  • Really old campaign stickers - Gore/Lieberman lost the 2000 election seven years ago, it is time to take off the sticker
  • Religiously fanatical stickers - "If case of rapture, car will be unmanned" "Real men love Jesus", etc.
  • Blind Patriotism - "God Bless America" "Support our Troops" "First Iraq, then France" etc.
  • Politically Angry - "Impeach Bush" "The Bush Legacy: Leave no child a dime" etc.
  • Calvin peeing on anything
  • 1-up bumper stickers - Jesus fish, Darwin fish eating Jesus fish, Truth fish swallowing Darwin fish, etc.
  • Prideful parent stickers - "My kid is an honor student" "My kid beat up your honor student" etc
There are a few bumper stickers that I do not mind. Those transparent stickers with the name of a college are the only ones that come to mind. I would rather just not be associated with those that have the ridiculous bumper stickers, so I am going to choose to never use them.

I think that I should add "bumper stickers" to my list. Here is where it stands now:

1. Wearing a cell phone on your hip
2. The idea that a nice smile is the "normal" way to pose for a photograph
3. People who cut to the front of a traffic back-up when they know they need to get over
4. Local TV Newspeople
5. Confirmational Reactionist
6. Wearing a blue tooth headset as a fashion accessory
7. Putting Bullethole stickers on your car
8. Placing a fake baseball on your car that gives the allusion that it has shattered your window
9. People who litter
10. Ignorcycles
11. Bumper stickers

The Irresistible Revolution

A few weeks ago Laura and I went with some friends to a church in downtown Durham to hear this guy, Shane Claiborne, speak. He was a fascinating individual. He currently lives in Philadelphia in a intentional community known as "The Simple Way." He has also served with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and went with some people (including a few folks who went to Duke with me) to Iraq right as the war was starting as a part of peace-keeping team.

Shane's unique experiences and fresh perspective of the gospel made him a great speaker. I soon found out that he is also a great writer. Much like his speaking style, Shane's writing style is very relaxed and conversational. However, the words and stories are anything but comfortable. This book was extremely challenging to my "comfortable" Christian existence.

I thought the main theme that was prevelant throughout the book was the question: "What if we took the words and life of Jesus seriously?" What would happen if we really did love our enemies and thought of creative ways other than violence to solve conflicts? What if we really did sell our possessions and gave them to the poor? What if we really did care about the invisible people on the margins of society who have no voice?

Something that really struck me was a chapter where he described the relationships he was building with his neighbors in Philadelphia. He and his friends starting helping folks, and they in turn started helping him with things like groceries and car repairs. He made the profound point that in a true community money has no power. In our society, money has the power to exclude and divide. But when those barriers and boundaries are overcome, money loses its power.

I thought this book was excellent. It had a lot of subtle humor weaved in between strong and bold claims of the gospel. I actually recommend not reading this book unless you are wanting to welcome a serious challenge to the way you are living your life.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Energy Efficiency

Laura and I have been thinking a lot lately about the ways that we can be more faithful as stewards of the environment. We have always been pretty good about recycling. This past year we have been buying more food locally and reducing the amount of oil that we consume. These past few months we have turned our attention to our energy consumption. We have eliminated the use of phantom power. Phantom power is power that is used when something is not even on. Appliances such as the television, computer, and microwave use power when they are not on. We plugged these appliances into a power strip and only turn them on when we need to use them.

This past weekend I switched all of the 60-75 watt light bulbs in our house to compact florescent bulbs or low wattage bulbs. These compact florescent bulbs are amazing. Not only are they inexpensive (about $1.50 a piece), they use a low amount of energy (about 14 watts) and they last a really long time (about 9 years). I crunched the numbers, and the total wattage used to light our house was 1610 watts. After I made the switch, we are down to a total of 364 watts, a reduction of 78%. Grand total it cost me $26.40, which will pay for itself in lower energy bills in no time.

I think that if a lot of people do little and simple things, it can make a big difference.

The Fog of War

This past weekend I watched the documentary film "The Fog of War." Typically I have not done reviews of films, but this one was so good I had to write about it. The documentary is basically an interview with Robert MacNamara, who, among many things, was the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. He is obviously still a very sharp and brilliant man, so it was fascinating to hear him reflect on his position and the decisions that were made during his turbulent tenure.

I found this film interesting on many levels. It was interesting on a historical level, as I learned many things from a first-hand source. For example, I had no idea the severity of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how close we were to nuclear war. The questions about human nature raised by MacNamara were also interesting. He wrestled with the fact that rational human beings could make atrocious and inhumane decisions in the fog of war.

I definitely recommend checking out this film if you have never viewed it. The film was organized around 11 lessons that MacNamara learned during his life, and I thought they were interesting so I am putting them here.

  1. Empathize with your enemy.
  2. Rationality will not save us.
  3. There's something beyond one's self.
  4. Maximize efficiency.
  5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
  6. Get the data.
  7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
  8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
  9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
  10. Never say never.
  11. You can't change human nature.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Blue Like Jazz

I went through "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller with my small group. It was an ideal small group book because it was easy and entertaining to read and it brought up good topics for discussion. The book was basically a collection of essays on the general topic of Christian spirituality. The only common theme of the book was the writing style of Miller.

I really liked this book. As a person who has spent 7 years in a formal academic setting, I did wish there was more meat to the book. Each chapter followed the same basic pattern: the bulk of the chapter is a bunch of random and funny stories from Miller's life, and then at the end he ties them all together at the end in a thought provoking manner. If you are reading this book for a small group and get behind on the reading, just read the last paragraph or last page and you will get the main gist of the chapter.

The thing that surprised me the most about this book was that it did not skirt around, but rather engaged, touchy topics. The book is definitely written in a post-modern style, and sometimes post-modern Christianity likes to gloss over topics such as sin and money. Miller did not do this, but rather wrote about these topics in such a way that you could have a conversation with your friend or neighbor who did not grow up in the church. It is definitely a good idea to read this book.

Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work

"Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work" by Eugene Peterson is an attempt to re-imagine the Bible as a handbook for pastoral work. In the introduction to the book, Peterson argues that the pastoral vocation has been hijacked by psychological and social sciences of our time. Peterson feels that pastors have taken a therapeutic approach to their work which goes against a biblical approach. The book then walks through five books of the Bible (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) showing how they inform pastoral work.

I loved Peterson's concept in this book. I think he is absolutely right that pastors need to immerse themselves in the Bible in order to get a sense of their vocation. Contained within the pages of Scripture are the way of life and the presence of God that can inform and transform. I did find the book to be a little scattered. I thought that his transition between the biblical story and pastoral work was cumbersome at points. His book gave incredible and creative insights, but those insights did not always fit together into a cohesive whole. I admit that this lack of coherency could be more of a problem with the reader as I have had a lot going on in my life lately and I have not been able to concentrate as clearly as I sometimes do. At any rate, this book was good enough for me to recommend to any pastor. The overall point of the book is important and well worth the price and time it will take to invest in it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


That's right boys and girls; it is time once again to add to my list of things in our society that I find unacceptable.

One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike. I love it! I love getting the exercise and reducing my carbon footprint. It is amazing what you notice about the world around you when you are not driving past it at 65 mph. I love the "bikers code" of waving to other cyclist on the road. I think that biking is my favorite form of transportation.

For the past few months, I have attempted riding my bike to work at least once a week. It is a 20 mile one way trip, and while I do not ride on any highways, I do ride on roads that have a lot of traffic. It is amazing to me how terribly some motorist treat bikers.

I have lost track of how many times I have almost been hit. Cars zoom by and come within inches of clipping me. I think the biggest problem is that most people do not realize that bikers have the same rights on the road as automobiles.

My favorite story came about a month ago. I was on a two lane road coming up to a busy intersection. A right-hand turn lane grew out of the lane that I was in. A massive Lincoln Navigator SUV was coming up fast behind me right at the point where the turn lane started and was wanting to turn right. I was going straight through the intersection, and therefore I had the right-of-way. The woman driving the SUV did not recognize that I was going straight until she already begin to make her turn. We both had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision. The amazing thing was that the woman sped past me, stopped her vehicle at the stoplight, got out of her car, and shouted at me "YOU DO NOT OWN THE ROAD!". I was extremely upset, and in a very non-Christian moment, I shouted back "I HAD THE RIGHT-OF-WAY!" Afterwards, I wish I would have kept my cool so I could have calmly talked with her and educate her on driving etiquette.

I cannot stand motorist who are ignorant of the fact that bicycles have the same rights to the road at automobiles. I have coined a term for people like this - ignorcycles. So, next time you see a cyclist on the road, please just slow down (you are not important enough to be in a hurry) and wait until there is plenty of room to safely pass by.

Ok, I feel better now. Well, at last count, here is how the list stands:

1. Wearing a cell phone on your hip
2. The idea that a nice smile is the "normal" way to pose for a photograph
3. People who cut to the front of a traffic back-up when they know they need to get over
4. Local TV Newspeople
5. Confirmational Reactionist
6. Wearing a blue tooth headset as a fashion accessory
7. Putting Bullethole stickers on your car
8. Placing a fake baseball on your car that gives the allusion that it has shattered your window
9. People who litter
10. Ignorcycles

And the name is...

Back in July, I wrote a post seeking help in naming our new VW Jetta. After a lot of consideration, we have decided to name the car Dietrich. Thanks to Bill Shannon (from whom we bought the car), we were able to determine that the car's gender was male. Thanks to everyone's suggestions, we decided to go with a German name. We choose Dietrich to honor one of my favorite theologians/Christian thinkers who also happens to be German - Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Even though Laura and I finally agreed on the name Dietrich, I find that more often than not, we simply refer to the car as "the Jetta." Hopefully when we have children, we will not debate a name for a long time, settle on one, and then refer to the child as "the boy" or "the girl."

Monday, September 3, 2007

Consumer Report - Long Lasting Popsicles

I am not going to lie to you, I love Popsicles. In fact, it is definitely one of my favorite things about summer. I can remember as a kid making homemade popsicles by freezing Kool-Aid in a Dixie cup with a stick. Well, over 20 years later I am still enjoying this cool summer treat. For the first 3 years of my married life, I went through 2 boxes (500 in each) of those pop-ices. This past summer, Laura and I have been mixing it up with random types of Popsicles and Fudgesicles.

I think that our culture has this sick fascination and craving for something new. It is not enough to leave something good alone, everything has to be new and improved. Laura went to the store last week and brought home these new improved "Long Lasting Slow Melt Popsicles." Being the student of science that I am, I thought I would put these Popsicles to the test and see just how much longer lasting they are.

I did this in the presence of 3 witnesses (Laura, Kevin & Julie Todd) in a controlled environment. We still had some bomb pops (the red, white, and blue popsicles) left, so I tested the long lasting pops against these. Kevin Todd was the official time keeper, and I tested the popsicles back to back using the same consuming technique (in my mouth, rolling my tongue around the popsicle). The results are surprising, but not stunning. The bomb pop lasted 5 minutes 50 seconds, while long lasting pop took 8 minutes 3 seconds to consume. However, the long lasting pop had a texture that resembled a plastic piece of silverware.

So, after having served humanity with this noble deed, I leave you with this valuable information to use when making future popsicle decisions: The long lasting popsicle will indeed last around 2 minutes longer than your average popsicle, but you will have to endure the plastic-like texture.

The New York Trilogy

"The New York Trilogy" by Paul Auster was another book on my classical literature list. It is a collection of 3 inter-linked detective novels. Auster writes really well and does a great job of developing a plot. In all three novels, you really get inside the head of the main character, so much so that when the character becomes dark (and this happens in all three novels), you understand it because you have progressed and changed along with the character. All three novels are set in New York, which provides a perfect setting for unique and complicated personalities.

After reading all three novels, I was somewhat disappointed because they all were anti-climatic. All three were narrated in such a way that the reader expects something really big or dramatic to happen, but the endings always leave you disappointed that not much really comes out of the multiple possibilities to which Auster alludes. However, the more I think about it, the more I appreciate this type of writing because it resembles real life. So many of us believe that something great or dramatic is going to happen in our lives. We all want to believe that our random movements through life are actually building to a dramatic end. The truth of the matter is that life is not like that. The everyday stuff of life is the drama and we are never able to fully appreciate the climax of our life because we will never be sure of when it occurs.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Job

Most of you out there already know this, but recently I started a new job. As of August 1st, I am the Registrar for the Duke Divinity School. I went to seminary and graduated from Duke, so it is extra special for me to have the opportunity to return there to serve. I see my job as making sure students graduate. I handle all of the behind the scenes stuff that allows students to register for classes, transfer credits in from other schools, and check to make sure they meet all of the requirements necessary to graduate.

So far I am really enjoying my job because it combines two things that I love. A large part of the job is administrative, and I love administrative work when it serves a noble purpose. In this case, I care very much about this administrative work because my behind the scenes work goes a long way to ensure future Christian leaders are being academically formed. The other part of the job is working with people. I work very closely with students, faculty, and Duke University administrators. Some of the most interesting people in the world work and study at Duke, so it is a privilege to be a part of such a diverse collection of talented individuals.

I think my favorite part of the job is signing Enrollment Verification letters. Quite often students will come to me to verify their enrollment and send a letter stating so to insurance companies, church denominations, banks, etc. I love signing my name and then taking out this huge piece of metal that stamps the official Duke seal on the letter. For some reason, I get a kick out of it every time.

It is the little things in life that amuse me...

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Last week Laura and I spent some time in Iowa visiting friends and family. We flew into Omaha, Nebraska and rented a car we affectionately referred to as a "roller skate" (it was a 2007 Chevy Aveo). We drove to my parents place in Ankeny, Iowa (by Des Moines) and had a blast hanging out with the family. We went to a water park and Adventureland. My little sis got engaged, so at one point the women went shopping for wedding dresses while the men got poison ivy playing disc golf. I miss seeing my family on a regular basis, so I definitely cherished the time I spent with them.

After a few days we "skated" up to Sioux Center, Iowa to have a triforce reunion. My buddy Tony was recently called to serve as a pastor in that area, and we were visiting for the first time. Highlights of that trip included a surprise birthday party for Angie, playing darts and washers, and eating at the Pizza Ranch. Of course, the best part of the trip was meeting Stevie for the first time. I love being an Uncle and it was really meaningful to interact with him.

All in all, I think we traveled close to 3500 miles in six days. I only wish those scientist would speed up the development of that whole teleportation thing!
The Triforce & Stevie

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Myth of a Christian Nation

"The Myth of a Christian Nation" by Gregory Boyd is a book that did a good job of coherently presenting a lot of random thoughts that have been rolling around my head for the past few years. Basically, the main thrust of the book was to destroy the myth that the way to revolutionize the world for God is by taking over the kingdom of this world. It is a somewhat popular thought right now (although it is waning) that many of the problems in our nation and even the world could be solved if we got the right "Christian" leaders in positions of power. However, this was never Jesus' plan while he was here on earth and he talked about the creation of a new kind of kingdom. In fact, one of the temptations Christ had to overcome before he began his ministry was the lure of worldly power.

Instead, Christ came to institute a new kind of kingdom. A kingdom that is all about transforming love and not coercive power. One theme that Boyd touched on over and over was contrasting the idea of "power over" versus "power under." It is a myth to believe that the best way to gain power is through force, but Christ demonstrated a new kind of power, a power that comes under others. Christ, even though he was God, did not consider equality with God as something that should be grasped by humans. Instead, he emptied himself and loved others by being a servant. That is the type of power that will change and transform the world.

The book also briefly touched on this common conception that the Founding Fathers of America were Christian and set this nation up to be a Christian nation. Many people tend to idealize our past and think that we need to return to the golden age when our nation was purely "Christian." However, this has never been true and American history has been stained with war, oppression, and violence from the very beginning. This truth was especially fresh on my mind have recently read Howard Zinn's history of America.

All in all, I thought it was a pretty good book. I would definitely recommend reading it if you are looking for an alternative way to think about what Christians should be doing in America.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


"1984" by George Orwell is a fascinating and well written novel. It imagines a world where the government seeks to control every aspect of society, including one's own thoughts. The novel follows the story of Winston, a mid-level government employee who eventually rebels by starting a love affair. The government monitors almost every aspect of people's lives, and it uses fear as a means of control. The reason why the government seeks absolute power and control is that it is seen as a means for immortality. If the government achieves complete control over humanity, it will last forever. This book also introduces and describes the concept of "Big Brother," where the government monitors every move of its citizens.

This book is certainly not for the faint of heart as it is quite graphic at points. Orwell does an amazing job of describing human nature and the struggle to stamp out the human desire for love and beauty. The book may also be a little prophetic, as our own government is seeking new ways of control in order to maintain peace and prosperity. I certainly do not think that our government or any government will resort to the measures used by the theoretical government in 1984, but it is important to remember that societies will never be able to survive by seeking absolute power and control, and that governments who attempt to do so will only create pain, suffering, and death. The divine spark simply cannot be stamped out of the human race through means of coercion.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Mayer Concert

On Tuesday night, Laura and I went to a concert at Walnut Creek in Raleigh. It featured John Mayer, but also included James Morrison and Ben Fold. First of all, the concept of a concert was really fascinating to me. I was blown away that thousands of people would pay $25 - $150 to hear a guy sing ballads about his broken relationships.

I guess it helps to be a ridiculously talented musician. Great musicians was what made this a great concert. All three were really good. Ben Fold played the piano in a way that I had never seen before. I always liked John Mayer, but it was not until I saw him live that I understood and appreciated what an amazing musician he is. I know just enough about play the guitar to recognize when someone is really good, and he is insanely good.

I definitely recommend catching this tour if you get the chance.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Well, it has been a little bit of time since I have added to my list of things that I find unacceptable, so I thought I would make an update. I am probably not going to cause a lot of controversy with this item, but it still needs to be said.

These past few months I have spent a lot of time in nature - hiking, swimming in lakes, riding my bike, going to the beach, etc. In every single area, even the more remote places, I noticed litter. I can honestly say that in 26 years on this planet, I have never consciously littered. I would seriously like to know who these people are that decide the best place for their fast food wrapper or empty beer can is out the window of a moving vehicle. I want to understand their mindset.

Is it ignorance? Do they really believe that the trash will magically disappear or blow into a proper trash receptacle?

Perhaps it is arrogance? Maybe there is a mindset that "someone else less important than me will pick up my garbage."

I am sure people who litter just do not think about it, and people who do not think really scare me.

At any rate, here is the list as it stands now (go to my archives to see the reason for each one):

1. Wearing a cell phone on your hip
2. The idea that a nice smile is the "normal" way to pose for a photograph
3. People who cut to the front of a traffic back-up when they know they need to get over
4. Local TV Newspeople
5. Confirmational Reactionist
6. Wearing a blue tooth headset as a fashion accessory
7. Putting Bullethole stickers on your car
8. Placing a fake baseball on your car that gives the allusion that it has shattered your window
9. People who litter

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bonhoeffer & King: Speaking Truth to Power

"Bonhoeffer & King: Speaking Truth to Power" by J. Deotis Roberts was a book with an interesting concept: lay the lives and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and MLK side by side to show all of the various ways in which they were moving in the same direction. While I found the concept intriguing, I thought that the book left a lot to be desired. I felt that the author did not put very many original thoughts into the writing. In my opinion, he merely copied and pasted together correlating information from the biographies and theological writings of the two subjects.

Part of my struggle with the book is probably due to the fact that I took an entire class in seminary on Martin Luther King. This book was pretty short (130 pages) and did not go into any sort of depth, so I really did not learn anything new about MLK. However, it was worth reading for me to learn some interesting aspects of Bonhoeffer's biography, of whom I am not as familiar with as King.

If you are unfamiliar with Bonhoeffer or King (or both), this book would make for an excellent primer. If you have studied either one before, you will likely be pretty bored with the book.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Good Friends, Good Times

This past week I have been reminded of the beauty and importance of friendship. Last weekend I met up with 3 of my seminary friends in mountain town of Sky Valley, Georgia. We had a great time fellowshipping, playing, and eating together. Then on Wednesday, Erik Willits stopped by for a few days on his whirlwind tour of the country. Last night, Laura and I threw a milkshake party as a way to say good-bye to our friends Jen and Gerron Showalter who are moving to Nashville. Around 40 people crammed into our little town home. It was so great to see everyone and I really savored the time that I spent with people I love. Relationships truly have the power to make life beautiful.

On a random side note, something really shocked me this past week. While I was in Georgia, me and my buddies went to this YMCA camp to spend some time. I was blown away that a place like this camp still existed. This camp had a rifle and archery range, not to mention a huge lake. In that lake, several diving boards were set up, along with a slide and "The Blob." I was amazed because in our present day of insurance and lawsuits, I did not think it was possible for a Y-Camp like this to exist. The slide was metal and about 60 feet long. You really got moving down it, and the sides were only a few inches high, so it would be very easy to fly off the slide into a tree in the woods. The blob is a huge inflatable piece of plastic where one person sits on and is flung off into the lake by another person jumping off an elevated platform. I still have whiplash from flying off of that thing. My friends and I had a ball just being kids again and reminiscing of a long gone age that was not dominated by liability waivers and lawyers.

A picture of the slide and "The Blob"

Friday, July 20, 2007

A People's History of the United States

This book was the first one on my classical literature list, and I could not have picked a better book to begin with. Howard Zinn begins with Columbus coming to the America’s in 1492 and re-tells American history – only through the eyes of the oppressed. For example, he tells the history of Columbus through the eyes of the Native Americans. The history of slavery is recalled through the eyes of African Americans. The Vietnam war through the eyes of the Vietnamese and others who protested at home.

This book included so many aspects of American history of which I had never heard. For example, I had no idea that in November of 1969, Indians attempted to occupy Alcatraz island as one of many vain attempts to protest the atrocities that had been done to them over the past 400 years. A group of about 78 Indians tried to take over Alcatraz and claim it as a reservation. The offered to buy Alcatraz with glass beads and red cloth – the same price paid to Indians for Manhattan Island over three hundred years earlier. However, the Indians were quietly and forcibly removed by federal agents and the whole ordeal was never really publicized.

Zinn’s sweeping recount of American history leaves one breathless at the amount of oppression created and perpetuated by the United States, specifically the wealthy elite who control government policies and action. This book is a must read for history lovers, especially those who have always heard “traditional” accounts of American history. In the first chapter of the book, Zinn writes a quote that I already posted, but it is so good I am going to post it again (I have been thinking about it non-stop since I read it):

“The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”

Treasure in Clay Jars

“Treasure in Clay Jars” is simply a report from a group of Christian researchers who studied nine missional congregations from across North America. Basically, the group sought to answer the question: “What are the characteristics of a missional church?” The group came up with eight different patterns that help to identify churches that are missionally faithful. I thought these patterns were good, so I wanted write them here for future reference.

  1. Discerning Missional Vocation – The congregation is discovering together the missional vocation of the community. It is beginning to redefine “success” and “vitality” in terms of faithfulness to God’s calling and sending. It is seeking to discern God’s specific missional vocation (it’s “charisms”) for the entire community and for all its members.
  2. Biblical Formation and Discipleship – The missional church is a community where all members are learning what it means to be disciples of Jesus. The Bible has a continuing, converting, formative role in the church’s life.
  3. Taking Risks as a Contrast Community – The missional church is learning to take risks for the sake of the gospel. It understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord. It is raising questions, often threatening, about the church’s cultural captivity and grappling with the ethical and structural implications of its missional vocation.
  4. Practices that Demonstrate God’s Intent for the World – The church’s life as a community is a demonstration of what God intends for the life of the whole world. The practices of the church embody mutual care, reconciliation, loving accountability, and hospitality. A missional church is indicated by how Christians behave toward one another.
  5. The Public Witness of Worship – Worship is the central act by which the community celebrates with joy and thanksgiving both God’s presence and God’s promised future. Flowing out of its worship, the community has a vital public witness.
  6. Dependence on the Holy Spirit – The missional community confesses its dependence upon the Holy Spirit, shown in particular in its practices of corporate prayer.
  7. Pointing Toward the Reign of God – The missional church understands its calling as witness to the gospel of the in-breaking reign of God and strives to be an instrument, agent, and sign of that reign. As it makes its witness through its identity, activity, and communication, it is aware of the provisional character of all that it is and does. It points toward the reign of God which God will certainly bring about, but knows that its won response is incomplete and that its own conversion is a continuing necessity.
  8. Missional Authority – The Holy Spirit gives the missional church a community of persons who, in a variety of ways and with a diversity of functional roles and titles, together practice the missional authority that cultivates within the community the discernment of missional vocation and is intentional about the practices that embed that vocation in the community’s life.

I have always resisted the “American Business Model” of church organization, and this book gave some concrete words to a lot of ideas that have been floating around in my head. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who is wanting to have a discussion about forming a missional church.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New Wheels

Today I officially purchased the first car that Laura and I have bought since we were married. It is a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Perhaps the coolest thing about the car is that it has a diesel engine and gets terrific gas mileage. Other cools things about it is the manual transmission, the sun roof, and the mp3 player.

Special thanks to our friends Bill and Danielle Shannon for taking such good care of the car and for giving us a great deal on it.

Apparently, we are now a part of this whole sub-culture of people who are really enthusiastic about having a diesel car. I have found a lot of websites devoted to this phenomenon, including this one.

Also, Laura and I like to name our cars. We have not come to an agreement about this one yet. She likes the name "Rachel," while I like the name "Caroline." Which one do you like better? Or do you have a better idea? I am open to suggestions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So Long, Old Friend

After 6 great years, my time with Val (the affectionate name I gave my Camaro) has come to a close. This past weekend, my next door neighbor asked me what happened to my car. I explained to him the story and finished by mentioning that I was going to try and get $500 for it. He immediately said "I'll take it," and even took my keys right away to pull it into his driveway so no one else would see it and think it might be for sale. I am pretty sure he has a buddy who works in a body shop, and since the car still runs great, he is probably seeing dollar signs by thinking he can repair the body damage real cheap and turn a profit.

I am putting two interesting pictures below. The first was taken the day after I bought the car in 2001. The second was taken the day after I sold it in 2007. The things of this world sure do pass away. As a part of the grieving process, I also wrote a letter to say good-bye and so I can have a little closure. I will put that below as well.

Dear Val,

This is not going to be easy, but it is time for us to say good-bye. Now that I am a little more mature, I am comfortable admitting that I bought you to be cool. And boy were you cool! Manual transmission, custom rims, low to the ground, cool angles - you had it all. Girls went absolutely crazy over you.

Well, actually just one girl, but she ended up being my wife. Laura and I had our first date in you. You provided us a perfect environment to make-out and, after we were married, some other things (wink!). I know that Laura is just as sad about all of this as I am.

My friends and I had a great time in you. You were a part of the scandal that rocked Olivet Nazarene University. I will never forget the night we were doing doughnuts in parking lot only to be pulled over by campus security. I humbly accepted the reckless driving ticket, but the campus security officer, hungry for power, tried to frame me and get me trouble by saying I was rude and called the him a "pig." However, we had conclusive video evidence that proved otherwise, and that officer lost his job for filling out a faulty report. Good times!

You have always been a good car. In fact, I never had a major mechanical problem with you. You started when I needed you to start and you took me where I needed to go. For those reasons and so many more, I will always remember you. From now on, whenever I see a Camaro on the road, a twinkle will come to my eye and I will recall the good times.

With much love,


Monday, July 16, 2007


In the post below, I was wondering what type of movie my life was going to be. So many things had gone wrong this past year, especially these past two weeks, that it was starting to have the feel of a tragedy.

Well, I am thrilled to report that the movie has a happy ending (to the first part of the saga, a sequel is expected to follow). When my bike tire blew out on Tuesday, that was certainly a low point for me. Beginning on Thursday, everything began to dramatically change - I got offered a new job, I was able to sell my totaled car, and we were able to buy an awesome car from a friend (more about all of this to follow).

It has been a long year, but I think that things are starting to head in the right direction again. I have only made it through by a ton of prayer, and trying my best to keep a positive attitude.

I keep a personal journal where I try to work through some thoughts I am wrestling with. I typically do not share this journal, but I thought I would put some excerpts here. I wrote this the night before all of the good things starting happening.

July 11, 2007

[In the above paragraph, I listed all of the things that had gone wrong recently]

However, I do not think it ever does any good to dwell on the bad. It will not change your circumstances. Yeah, someone might agree with me that I have been dealt a bad hand (over and over again), but so what? So many people on this earth have it so much worse. So many have been physically beaten or tortured, so many do not have food, so many do not have others that love and care for them. It is not easy remaining positive. Lately I have been feeling like I have just been getting crapped on. But crying about it is not going to help.

If you look at the top paragraph, I could list positive things from each one. Yeah, I did not get the job I interviewed for, but they were super supportive and gave me the names of others looking for jobs. Because of that, I have another interview tomorrow morning that may work out.

Yeah, my car (the car that I absolutely love) is basically toast. But perhaps it could be a blessing. Perhaps it would not have made it another year. Perhaps God knows we need a car that will last us a little farther into the future than the Camaro could get us.

Yeah, my bike tire blew up when I was riding my stinking bike 40 miles into school because I am a stupid idiot who does not set the parking brake. But, I was able to call Andy Joslin in my small group who happened to be only 2 miles where I was. He came and picked me up and let me have his car for the day. Yeah my bike might have failed me, but I have friends who treat me like family.

Yeah, things might have sucked this past year, but it could have been a lot worse. I could have gone through it all without Laura. She has been amazing. Supporting me, loving me, thinking I am amazing even though the only job I was able to find was working as a low level administrator in the science part of Duke. Last week was our 4 year anniversary. We went to Peggy’s cabin and simply rested, read, explored, watched movies, and ate. Not too many people enjoy the level of intimacy Laura and I have. So many people would give their financial freedom as well as their left arm for that. Having someone there who will love you and care for you even when the whole world is against you is worth more than millions of dollars.

So many other things have been good this past year. Never once have we gone hungry. Never once have we even come close to being broke. Our health has been great. We have made several more relationships that never would have happened otherwise. I got to serve at Duke Chapel, and while it was not the ideal job, it was an amazing experience and has the potential to open up doors for me in the future. Things could be so much worse, so as I see it I have only two options: dwell in the bad, or hope for the good. I am going to do my best to live in the latter, and attempt to avoid the former.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Serenity Now!

Last week Laura and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary by going to one of our favorite places in the world. For the past 3 years we have rented this cabin in the mountains of Virginia. It is very private and secluded; perfect for a romantic getaway. We spent five days simply sleeping, reading, eating, and exploring.

One of the things I am learning in life is that relaxation is not something you can save. You either are resting or you aren't. It is not possible too relax for awhile and have that rest go with you into your next pattern of busyness. We have been back for less than 48 hours and I already feel like I have "lost" all of the rest I had gained. Perhaps if anything, rest can only help to prevent you from going absolutely crazy in busy times.

I am starting to feel like my life is one of those movies where bad things continue to happen to the main character. In my last post I chronicled the drama that happened with my Camaro. Well, I have another chapter to add to the story today.

In the post, I mentioned that I was planning to ride my bike to work. Several of you commented to me that you thought I was kidding, but I wasn't. Now, I was not planning to do it everyday, just on the day's when Laura absolutely needed the car. I did it once last week and it was fine.

Today was another day where I needed to ride my bike. Right around mile 7 of the 20 mile trek, my front tire blew out. Are you kidding me?!? I have been riding a bike for close to 20 years now, and I have never had a flat. Talk about a terrible time for a first time.

Well, I was reminded today of the importance of having friends. Thankfully, I knew someone who lived only a few miles from where I blew my tire. He is in my small group and had mentioned to me on Sunday that he was working from home today. He was able to come and pick me up and and then let me take his car into work (Andy Joslin, you are the man!).

I am waiting to see what kind of movie I am in. Hopefully it is a comedy where all of these bad (but humorous) things happen to the main character, but in the end his fortunes are reversed and everything works out.

Monday, July 2, 2007


So yesterday was a little crazy for me. It started off great. Josh and Sara Lowe (Sara is Laura's cousin) were in town visiting. Josh and I got up relatively early that morning to play some disc golf before church. When we came back to the house, I parked on the street since there was not room in the driveway. I proceeded to make chocolate waffles for everyone when the doorbell rang.

It was a neighbor who was out walking her dog. She wanted to know if we owned a maroon Camaro. She had seen it flying down the street without a driver.

You have to understand that the Camaro has a manual transmission. When you park a car with a manual transmission, you should always put it into gear and put on the parking brake. I typically do the former while neglecting the latter.


The place where I parked was relatively flat. I am somewhat sure I put it into gear, but it must not have been good enough. Apparently, my car must have slowly rolled along until it came to a small hill where it picked up a lot of speed. It traveled about 1/5 of a mile down the street before jumping the curb, taking out a storm grate, and crashing into the back of a Ford Bronco.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. Even though the picture below looks bad, not too much damage was done to the Bronco. Just a dent to the side of the bumper and the side panel is a little smashed in.

The Camaro, however, is totaled. I am pretty sure the cost to repair the damages exceeds the value of the car.

Another amazing thing is that basically no damage was done to the engine. I was able to start the car and drive it back to our place (and yes, I engaged the parking brake and turned the wheels toward the curb, just like they teach you in Driver's Ed). One option would be to get a rubber mallet and pound it back into shape, and then just keep driving it until it falls apart. For the meantime, I am just going to ride my bike the 20 miles to work and think about what I have done.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Classic Literature

All throughout college and seminary, I always expressed a desire to have free time to read some of classic works of literature. I promised myself that once I was done with school, I would certainly devote time to this. Well, I am happy to report that I am taking active measures to fulfill this goal. I have compiled a list of 100 great pieces of literature and I hope to get through the list in the next 3-5 years. I have put the list below in case you were curious about what I will be reading.

I started on the list and it is already paying off huge dividends. I am currently reading "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn. This thought provoking book recounts American history with special attention given to the voice the oppressed. For example, the first part of the book focuses on the colonization and settlement of America through the eyes of the Native Americans. A quote in the first chapter has been rolling around in my head since I read it: "The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is."

Good Stuff!

  1. A People’s History of the United States Howard Zinn
  2. The Wind Up Bird Chronicles Haruki Murakami
  3. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
  4. The Crying of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon
  5. Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien
  6. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
  7. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
  8. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  10. The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
  11. Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky
  12. On the Road Kerouac
  13. Alice in Wonderland Carrol
  14. Brothers Karamozov Dostoevsky
  15. The Age of Innocence Wharton
  16. Don Quixote Cervantes
  17. Perfume Suskind
  18. Ulysses Joyce
  19. Anna Karenina Tolstoy
  20. Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor
  21. Cry the Beloved Country Paton
  22. Dracula Stoker
  23. The Eagles Die Marek
  24. Emotionally Weird Atkinson
  25. The Handmaid’s Tale Atwood
  26. Infinite Jest Wallace
  27. Kitchen Yoshimoto
  28. London Fields Amis
  29. Moise and the World of Reason Williams
  30. Movie Wars Rosenbaum
  31. Paradise Lost Milton
  32. Persuasion Austen
  33. Tortilla Curtain Boyle
  34. Visions of Excess Bataille
  35. Where the Wild Things Are Sendak
  36. Wild Sheep Chase Murakami
  37. Beloved Morrison
  38. Counterfeiters Gide
  39. The Bell Jar Plath
  40. Blind Owl Hedayat
  41. Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe
  42. The Count of Monte Cristo Dumas
  43. Dealing With Dragons Wrede
  44. The Earthsea Trilogy Le Guin
  45. The Ecology of Fear Davis
  46. Franny and Zooey Salinger
  47. History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides
  48. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Alvarez
  49. Kabuki: Circle of Blood Mack & Jiang
  50. Of Human Bondage Maugham
  51. The Satanic Verses Rushdie
  52. The Sheltering Sky Bowles
  53. Tristam Shandy Sterne
  54. Well of Loneliness Hall
  55. Wicked Pavilion Powell
  56. Collected Stories of V.S. Pritchett
  57. War and Peace Tolstoy
  58. Babel 17 Delany
  59. Dora Freud
  60. Empire Falls Russo
  61. For Whom the Bell Tolls Hemingway
  62. Girl in Landscape Letham
  63. Goodbye to All That Graves
  64. Ham on Rye Bukowski
  65. Life Like
  66. Mao II Delillo
  67. Random Family Leblanc
  68. Revolutionary Road Yates
  69. The Stranger Camus
  70. Humboldt’s Gift Bellow
  71. White Noise Delillo
  72. Atlas Shrugged Rand
  73. Bastard Out of Carolina Allison
  74. Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills Bukowski
  75. Delta of Venus Nin
  76. Fast Food Nation Schlosser
  77. Ficciones Borges
  78. Go Ask Alice Anonymous
  79. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Adams
  80. Iliad Homer
  81. On Photography Sontag
  82. Republic Plato
  83. Shockproof Sydney Skate Meaker
  84. Society of the Spectacle Debord
  85. Strangers in Paradise Moore
  86. The Sun Also Rises Hemingway
  87. A Wrinkle In Time L’Engle
  88. Dubliners Joyce
  89. The Breakfast of Champions Vonnegut
  90. No Logo Klein
  91. Aeneid Virgil
  92. Ariel Plath
  93. Charlotte’s Web White
  94. Curious George Learns the Alphabet Rey
  95. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute Paley
  96. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter McCullers
  97. Henry VIII Shakespeare
  98. I, Claudius Graves
  99. The Lost Continent Bryson
  100. Master and Margarita Bulgakov

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Bible in 1 Year

Well, I did it. Last night I put the finishing touches on my quest to read through the Bible in 2007. It really helped to clear my reading list and to just focus on reading the Bible. I have a few comments/reflections on my journey these past six months.

  • Reading through it has left me amazed at the breadth and scope of this amazing piece of writing. I really believe that if you took an infinite number of interpreters/commentators and gave them an infinite amount of time with the Bible, they still would not be able to uncover all that is contained within the text. The Bible really mirrors God in this way.
  • I am convinced more than ever that the Bible should not be read alone. At the very least, you need to look at books that interpret the Bible to at least have some other voices to offer insight. I think it is a wonderful idea to read the Bible in a group setting, particularly in a diverse group. We really must assume a posture of humility when approaching the Bible.
  • The thing that stuck out to me the most in this reading was the marriage metaphor between God and God's people. Perhaps this is because I ended with the OT prophets and Revelation, but it just seemed like over and over again this metaphor kept popping up. Along the same lines, "prostitute" was a common term used describe the people of God in their relationship to God.
Even though I have completed reading the Bible, it is not as if I will put it back on the shelf to collect dust. The Bible is not really a book in this sense - where you only read it once because that is all you need to read it. I would now like to focus on studying specific parts of the Bible. I think I may start with Jonah. When reading it through, I was really surprised by its brevity. It is only 4 short chapters long. I think in my mind it was always this huge epic story that was presented to me in Sunday School as a young kid, so I just assumed it was longer than it was. But, even though it is short, I really think that there is a lot there.

Looking forward to continuing to wrestle with the Good Book.