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.