a few follow-ups to recent posts:

-- if you're supposed to get 15 minutes of fame, perhaps youtube should consider expanding its time limit.

-- that ray lamontagne song was a gnarls barkley cover, and i really liked it in just how different it is from the original. but ray's other stuff is great too and you should check it out, especially on a rainy day.

-- anybody thinking of reading The Myth of Certainty? i forgot to mention that the tagline for my blog, the quote under the title is from that book as well.

-- babies should not preach.

-- i'm convinced lightning hit the crane across the street this morning. EVERYONE in manhattan heard that.

-- john buck i love you.


get low

this is too funny.

source: laura


joy | hope

it comes in moments, often when you're not expecting it. it came for me the other day, walking up the stairs of a church, my soon-to-be new home. i stopped near the top of the stairwell, a few steps to go. i could hear soft chatter echoing from down the hall and the crisp pulses of a broom on hardwood floor. the gate before me was swung open. that gate that had for so many years remained locked. activity filled rooms and halls that have long been dormant. dust that was once still now clouded the air.

it was all of those things that brought it. and yet it also wasn't any of them. that's a funny thing about joy. you can't always necessarily find its source. which makes its conspicuous absence at times all the more difficult. where do you go to find it again? one thing seems certain to me: it cannot be found by searching for it. try to recreate circumstances, try to find contentment in any situation, try to will yourself to feel it, try to find something new--none of these will really lead you there.

which makes it all the more tricky when it comes on you all of the sudden. you have to pause. you have to take a deep breath and let your eyes twinkle, for once you move again it rescinds--not gone but something more subtle. once it is there it can be recalled, but with increasing difficulty as time goes on. these moments are something unique, a gift you only rarely find.

this is nothing new of course. c.s. lewis described such a moment for him in his book "surprised by joy," the spiritual autobiography of sorts of him coming to God. there is something in these simple moments that is crucial to life. they do not create the substance of what makes your life rich, but like the pinch of salt in a batch of cookies sets the taste just right.

and we are all going to need that salt. of course in the midst of many trials and hardships, of many disappointments and failures, of many losses. in the dry seasons, when joy is far from your heart. the slight break in the clouds on a cold day as you feel the sunlight on your face for only a moment. these are the tastes of joy.

joy has always been a hard thing for me. i don't know how to understand it. i don't know how to have it in the midst of suffering, beyond these simple gift-like moments. i do not know how to rejoice as things seem bleak. i do not know how to enjoy life when it is not happy. the trite ideas don't seem to connect for me.

i believe one thing though--it is in some way deeply connected with hope. i used to be all about hope. had grand plans of writing a book about it in fact--still do somewhere in the back of my mind. in fact i sort of believe that someday i still will. a little piece of hope remaining. but who can know true hope without experiencing deeply crushing despair and shattered expectations? is that necessary to have hope? it's something one of my favorite books explores, and i still don't know what i think about it.

the real challenge is learning to choose hope when you realize that there is much to fear. i mean really realize it. you may know cognitively the risks, but until you've experienced the pain and consequences of a fallen hope, you will not be able to stand up again and hope in the face of fear. hell, i don't know if you can do it even if you have experienced that shattering--especially many times. the heart can only take so much. i used to believe that the more you give away in love the more you are--that the losses you take only come back as something more beautiful and rich when God remakes your heart. i don't know about that. i've expressed my doubts about this before, and i don't know how deep the breaking of that ideology goes.

but maybe hope does not find its value when it is realized. maybe hope is proved true when it is renewed even after it has been lost and it has let you down over and over. or is that simple foolishness? because the "it" we're talking about here is of course more than simple fate and destiny. no, who has much faith to put in that? but a person, the person of God who we believe is good. and the fight to uphold his goodness in the midst of shattered hopes, though you know they may be flawed because they are yours and not His--those cognitive things won't help much, and though you hope in the Lord ultimately you must hope in other things as well to live on this earth, that is the fight of hope.

it gets messy with theology--what does God have control over and what does God let people choose? for he may lead you into something that ultimately does not end well by your understanding, and in our sight that leading can seem cruel and sadistic--was it all for your own sake? nope, won't buy the personal growth excuse. that's not a kingdom mentality. i believe it's more apocalyptic. the world is at war and sometimes God says "well we had to try didn't we?" but if God has foreknowledge then how does this make sense? well like i said, messy theology. i don't want to go there right now. that's a discussion topic, not a dissertation topic.

so how do we fight for hope? i don't know. you should ask someone who's winning that battle a little more often. no, on second thought i might venture to say that they then might not be hoping enough. or they've just been a lot more lucky or fortunate or received more of God's grace there. maybe talk to someone who has fought the battle longer, and endured many defeats but still is standing strong. i don't know where to find these people. i suspect many of them don't wear their scars on their sleeves, so to speak. but they are out there, right? or is it only the lucky ones who survive?



of observations on the 25th of april

so it was quite a day, and i wouldn't want to just let it go by without sharing my many observations. i know you are licking your chops to get a look-see at my pearl casting here.

~ i don't know the guy's name, but the dude who is the "emcee" of sorts at kauffman stadium is a major tool. yeah, that's my first observation.

~ staying on that theme, the new k is pretty stellar. they need to work out buck night much better though--you'd think they would be more prepared so people wouldn't have to stand in line for 5 innings. the jersey promotion ticked me off too--not only because it was the wrong number, but because now there are all these fair-weather fans who want to support the royals now that they're good. well you enjoy your #40 jersey 20,000 johnny-come-lately fans. ok, i'll give that at least half were real fans. would have been there more than an hour before the game but had a workday, some things are more important.

~ the workday went great. the dumpster we ordered and paid for never showed up--we'll sort that out on monday. but it turned out to be ok since we got a lot of other stuff done that really needed it. the upstairs looks amazing now. still plenty of work to be done but man was there a lot of progress. i will be retrieving the dust from my lungs and sinuses for a couple days, but that's ok. gotta call out k-state ichthus though--there were twice as many people from missouri state university where laura went as there were people from ichthus, the birthing church of this community. i know you all had reasons. i'm just stating the facts. it's ok. we will have more. thanks so much to those of you who did come though!

~ i'm so excited to live with all the people i'm going to be living with next year. so stellar. in fact, should i be a little worried that i'm more excited about my community than i am being in the city? i suppose that's ok right now. right?

~ i've had lots of thoughts and feelings in the past week, but shallow/impersonal blog posts are what i'm feeling inclined to throw out there right now. maybe soon something more.

~ speaking of, going back to sports. the chiefs drafted a defensive end. ok. not sure but we'll just have to see about it. crabtree or curry would have been a little more flashy, but that's not "the patriots midwest's" style. part of me likes that this could be a successful model. part of me hates that we are emulating the patriots so much, just like the other 6 teams that have former patriots personnel running the show. i'm ready to get into the mode of not having to talk about football all summer because there is actually another local sport worth talking about past april. and i'm not talking about the wizards.

~ john buck was weak tonight. he's had too much time off--even though he was batting .346 he only played 1 of the previous 4 before tonight. trey, i love you man but you're really making some pretty questionable decisions. and what was the deal with pitching mahay, cruz, and wright for an inning each when we're down 8 runs? they are our best setup relievers. maybe you're trying to keep from giving them 9 days off so that when they do come back and pitch they won't all get hurt. oh right you already did that with soria. but maybe pick a little closer game?

~ i didn't know rats could gelify. bet you're glad that wasn't on the workday cleanup agenda. our large friend is still tucked away where fate left him for the time being.

~ i'm excited about life right now. unsure in some ways. but so excited.


books you should read

alright time for the second installment of the ever-anticipated series, "books you should read" according to luke. as far as i know a couple people started reading the brothers off my last post, and as far as i know none of them finished it or maybe even got very far at all. some of the same and others have it on their list for down the road. we'll see. you have my strongest encouragements. it will be worth it.

but in any event i thought it would be nice to give you a book of a little more manageable size. this one isn't without its own issues though, as you're not likely to find it in any library or bookstore. this is an online only selection, which means you have to buy it--or borrow it from me. i never make it easy on you do i? well, again--trying to give myself room to grow.

so without further adieu, here is the present selection:

The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor
subtitle: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment.

i could say a lot of things to start off praising this book. but i think i'll start by just listing the authors taylor quotes at the beginning of each chapter:

t.s. eliot
blaise pascal (often)
lenny bruce
flannery o'connor
soren kierkegaard (a lot)
jesus christ (probably good eh?)
helmut thielicke
karl barth
jacques ellul

if you don't know who all of those people are, it's ok--i don't know every one of them either. but even the ones i do know alone makes for a stellar list. even better are the actual words they say. i'll intersperse some quotes from taylor in here throughout my writing. looking through for the quotes and such has really made me want to read this book again myself. it's definitely worthy of a multi-read, which is saying a lot since i don't do that much.

now before you go thinking this is just another good christian self-help book, let me speak to that. as the subtitle suggests, it is written for the "reflective chrisitan." or to put it another way, the christian who thinks about their faith. in contrast to the christian that doesn't. which, surprisingly is a little higher than we'd probably like it to be. this book speaks to the christian who isn't so sure about a lot of what they see in the "christian" world. it is written to the guy in the room full of christians thinking, "am i the only one that thinks there is something not right here?" it is written to the christian who sometimes struggles with doubt but exists within a system that often doesn't allow for it.

"We crave explanation because it contributes to perhaps the most basic of all nonphysical human needs--the need for security...Once in operation, a belief system processes all information, all evidence, in its own terms, appropriating that which verifies its outlook and defusing or ignoring anything else."

many of us have a sort of love/hate relationship with this "system." you could call it "the church" if you like--though it might not be the best word for it--because then you feel guilty if you speak badly about it, for we all must heed the words of augustine: "the church is a whore, but she's my mother." though the book is not about separating from or accusing the "church." no it's about learning to live within this culture but not let it take away from genuine faith and thought and uncertainty and existence. the "church" works against those things a lot. perhaps a better word, as taylor uses in the tradition of kierkegaard is "christendom."

"Not only is Christendom not synonymous with a life in Christ, following Christ may well require rejecting parts of Christendom."

this book was way ahead of its time. it was written in 1986, revised in '92. it speaks to the "postmodern christian" before anyone new to call us that, or before it became hip and trendy to do so (i don't think he ever actually uses that word though). it spoke out against an overly-conservative and legalistic american church that still exists in a lot of ways today--though a lot of communities have grown through this. perhaps the book would speak to you about the christianity you knew growing up more than the one you know now. perhaps it will help you to see more of the distinction. and perhaps it will speak some to where you're at now.

"All our perceptions are at least partially flawed as well as limited...The obsession with error makes one fear commitment to anything that is not self-evident, or at least embraced by a large percentage of others who play the same game."

i think the best part about this book is that it speaks to the christian with issues with christians. it speaks to the christian who is conflicted living within a modern christendom but so greatly desires to not only express their own faith in new ways, but to see the church as a whole come to find these expressions and freedoms as well. i'm speaking vaguely here, and it's about to turn into more of a blog post if i get too specific.

"Doubt derives its greatest strength from those who fear it most."

but we all have these individual views of reality, and it seems as if being a christian is about having to assert that my view is the absolute and only right one. not only does this greatly clash with postmoderns, but it reeks of pretentiousness and arrogance. we must stand for the truth with our certainty thinking that it's the only way to really be a christian, and anything else is just subserving the culture or copping out. certainty is our excuse for arrogance. i could tell you more about "the myth" of certainty, but perhaps you should find out about it for yourself (pointer: that's a tricky way of saying you should read the book).

one final word: this is not an easy book. i don't mean it's hard to read. he intersperses fiction in there as well actually and it is done pretty well--at least it helps serve the book and isn't terribly written. no, i mean that it is a challenging read. it will challenge your ideas. it might challenge your "security." you could hate some of this book perhaps. other parts of it might have you saying YES enthusiastically. but it will probably shake you some. i think it is a good shaking and one that is absolutely necessary--but you must be willing to be shook to let the fruit fall and grow something new, something good.


preach it brother

from imonk.

wow. i don't even know what to say.


work day!

hey everyone. well i suspect that a lot of you know that i am moving into a church in the inner city of kc with a community in a month or so, and perhaps then you might already know also that we are having a work day at the church this saturday. but in case you don't, here is the info. i would appreciate any help you guys would be able to give, as there is a lot of work to be done. and we can all go to the royals game together after the workday! :). hope to see some of you there.

Saturday, April 25th

9am till 4ish or as late or early as people can stay

43rd and Montgall (2701 E. 43rd St.)
New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church

Lunch will be provided

Bring work gloves if you have them.

ps if you're coming from manhattan we can arrange a carpool.


yes please

alright folks, here's the deal. the royals are in town this next weekend for a few games. i know you all are already planning on being in kc so that you can be a part of our work day on saturday (if you don't know, we're working on the church we will soon be living in--come join us!), so the way i see it is we should go to a royals game all of us. the stadium has been remodeled this year and i hear it's amazing. all the more reason to go.

here's the dilemma:

24th friday night is buck night--always a winner. one dollar hot dog, pepsis, and peanuts. this makes food at the ballgame affordable and essential. because normally, who wants to drop 4 bucks on a dog? speaking of bucks there is the man john buck, all the more reason to go.

25th saturday night is royals jersey replica night. first 20,000 fans get a free royals jersey! the royals have been around for 40 years now and so all the jerseys have the number 40 on them. speaking of 40 that is my prediction for how many home runs mike jacobs will hit this year, all the more reason to go see one.

so what's the answer? which game should we go to?


let's do it. seriously. if you're only in for one game* well we'll just have to get different groups each night. it will be great. who doesn't love a ballgame????

*"game" denotes an entirety of a baseball game. that's 9 innings. only in the case of an absolute blowout would i want to consider leaving early. depending on the size maybe we can have a car that is open to leaving early. but don't you want to get all you pay for anyway? supposed to be beautiful weather, all the more reason to enjoy the whole night!


confessional corner

yes this is the segment of my blog where i confess the often embarrassing secret or not so secret things that i just have to purge myself of. sometimes i find release, sometimes joy, other times i stay in my hateful addiction, or every now and then it works out to my advantage.

well my friends you're in for a doozy tonight. this one is bad. i'm not kidding. it's got me tight and i just have to share, though it's probably the worst one yet. in the past they have at least been somewhat laughable and perhaps you still wouldn't think less of me. except maybe for hereos--i'd give you that. i have a healthy respect for judging people based on the tv shows they watch. except you lose all credibility if you enjoy LOST. no arguing that point.

so what is it? what is this horrible thing that has me under its grasp? what has me staying up nights? what has sunk its claws in and won't let go? well you've obviously already seen the picture so the suspense isn't quite there. i'm addicted to playing settlers of catan online.

yes i realize this makes me something of a nerd immediately. is it really so different from people who play world of warcraft or whatever else for hours on end? no i don't play for that long usually, but still. it is sad. such a waste of time. why do i continue to play?!?!

i'll tell you. like any addiction there is a rush to it. when you win and beat out some stupid german who's probably 13 and keeps stealing your resources--oh the satisfaction! the games aren't much longer than 30 minutes and the time flies--so if you lose just play another until you feel that rush of satisfaction. yes it's a horrible thing to be caught under. it gets your heart going and then you can't fall asleep late at night and you have to do something like write a blog post.

i've had trouble with computer games in the past--i mean more the ones that came with your computer, or were online. like hearts or freecell or pinball or spider solitaire. i had to delete all of these games from my computer to get away from them in the past. so why don't i delete catan? well it's coming close to that. the one thing that holds me back is that several of my friends play it. no i won't denounce you publicly--i'll save the public ridicule for myself. this is my confession. but when your roommate is always playing it makes it a lot tougher! and it would be a fun way to keep in touch when another goes to greenland next year. another just moved to kc to be a social worker and i don't get to see her anymore. this game gives us connection!

so what should i do? my confessors, speak wisdom to me. should i delete the game and give up the social connection? should i continue to play but scale back (how do i hold myself back?!?!)--thus remaining a nerd? delete it entirely and be free of it? it is truly shameful. i hang my head in shame in front of you. tell me what should be done.


the notwist



thomas kelly

But unless we grow rich in deep living of the soul in the Eternal Love we shall flatten out into the sands of intellectualism and humanitarianism. Until we've grown rich and mature in God and become persons who have utterly died to themselves and are actually hid away with Christ in God, we shall have missed the inner wells of living water which spring up and make life miraculous, and the desert to blossom like the rose.



"afraid to start
for i've begun
to fear
every single warning."

speaking of making something an idol, how about my thoughts being tied up in stuff about relationships and all during holy week? i promise i've been up to and thought about much more. :)

may we all experience Christ's resurrection in our lives this day.

happy easter everyone.



i've had several interesting conversations this week talking about romance, love, whathaveyou. top it all off with a little chick-flick i got stuck watching at my dad's house tonight and here you go--a lot of thoughts to run through.

(although it's not the direct point of this post, i still believe what i heard back in high school that our so called "chick-flicks" or romantic comedies are generally what you could call "girl p*rn" (don't want a google hit there). i contest that they are no less unrealistic and perhaps just as damaging to the mindset of what love is and how relationships happen. they are just far more accepted and less scrutinized. its roots are in something good, but it's perverted--just like p*rn and sexuality. judge for yourself.)

so these conversations. well, no--let's start with the movie. runaway bride. hadn't seen it before. here's your movie: girl runs away at every wedding because she doesn't really know herself, after running away from her dream guy she finally realizes this, "finds herself" (figures out how she likes her eggs), goes back to him and they are married. sorry for the spoiler but you probably could have guessed it from the beginning. the main premise of the movie is delivered by the wedding officiant at the end: "may your individuality strengthen your love."

first of all, it's not a terrible point. you do need to know yourself and not absorb your entirety from the other person. that's the good message in a sense. and of course it being the type of movie it is, after the mistake all is made right and they end up together--naturally. just like life. and then the end of the movie seems to undermine its own point by the uber-cheesy "you are the only one for me i have to have you or i'll regret it for the rest of my life" line. we'll come back to the romance point.

does individuality strengthen love? yeah i think it does in a way. or perhaps a better word would be "self-awareness" or self-health." yeah i know that's two words both hyphenated. deal with it. or maybe a better way to put it is that you must have more to your life than just living for the other person. the biggest idols of our day are wedding rings. what more do we consistently put ahead of God in so much of the way we live? not that marriage is a bad thing of course or that i don't want it--just that we idolize our spouses i think. or our significant other if it gets that serious. the movie says "individuality" because that is our other god. if we hold that too high we won't be willing to follow where God leads us, down the path of self-denial and loss of ourselves. and then of course it doesn't work in relationships either, because we will not love selflessly. only if its held to high though. we must have our own identity--but it is that of a servant of love, giving to God and one another. yeah?

so what's the deal with romance? even if we have this sort of healthy balance and are in a good place personally--which no one really is of course, the story doesn't fall together like these movies. no, romance isn't all it's cracked up to be. this isn't some jaded cynic speaking. i am a romantic at heart, which is probably why i've had to wrestle with all this so much. i've driven 1,000 miles in a day for a girl. and less as well--on whims or dreams or God's direction or fanciful illusions. i've kissed a girl on top of a mountain. i've done my fair share of fighting, trying to play the knight in shining armor. and i think what i've learned is that it's never enough. it just isn't. that's not what real romance and love is.

sure if you have that real romance and love than all the romantic crap can seem nice and warm and good. but it isn't what makes the stuff. romance is such that it has become based on an illusion or idea of what someone is or how something should be. these ideas come from all the movies and stories and music largely. we "fall in love" with a great idea of what something could be. or a grand gesture that touches some sort of ancient chivalry or heroism that creates false understanding of who that person really is, because he or she is acting out of that stereotype as well. sure it often can at least start with a true interaction with a person. sometimes. but it's all a game called romance. and we have been trained how to play it. it's probably that the greater the degree of "romance" the less we truly know the other person for who they really are. but we expect the romance so much that we would not accept one outside of these pretenses, even if that is a more genuine representation of who they are. no, it's better to be deceived and find out who a person really is 2 or 3 years into marriage. then have a 50/50 chance of how things will turn out. sound about right?

ok maybe i do sound jaded a little. i really wrestle with this stuff though. i don't want to be cynical. i want to be married and have a family and i want it to be a blessing and a joy. i know it would be tough of course--and there's a lot that we do wrong. and it's not about learning how to avoid the mistakes as much as it is having the grace to live through them. i've learned that. but i don't want to play this game. and i don't want the false intimacy that comes when someone else realizes they're playing this game after much investment has already been made.

but girls help me out here. it's like you have to have that "romance." or at least you've been programmed to think that right? a lot of guys too. still me in so many ways. isn't this cultural in a lot of ways though? it's a western society thing. i won't get into all that because who cares--it is how it is and it won't change. i heard that a ugandan bishop said that for marriage you should just find someone who shares the same passion for serving God and become partners in that with one another. that sounds pretty simple. but that just won't work in our culture. we're too programmed already. i wouldn't do that i don't think. not just that alone.

i'm just done with playing the game. forget expensive romantic dinners and big gestures and trying to win someone over or all that. it's not worth the energy. it consumes our lives when we're in the midst of it. it is an idol. so forget all the dressings. people too much want the dressings more than they want the meat. they want marriage and the great romance more than they want a specific person. the "one" is some magical/mystical entity that will be reveled through all the romantic situations--not so much the qualities or core/heart of a person that is desired. that is secondary. so just be who you are and if someone is drawn to that then at least you really know you are being genuine and that it is actually you they really want--not some performance of playing the game well: clothes, persona, chivalry, etc. it's all so sucked into our society and we are its damned victims. 50% survival rate.

it's kind of like the old school war. they would just stand there taking turns shooting at one another in a line. and you see that now and you gotta think, "man why did they do it that way? so stupid. just asking to get killed. take some cover for crying out loud. your ideals of what's proper and honorable are so messed up." so warfare developed and people realized there's a better way to fight. (ok just accept the metaphor without pointing out that fighting isn't really good in any way--beside the point).

maybe people years from now will look back at our dating and marriages like we look at those soldiers. and they will think that we were so ignorant, so foolish. "but that's just the way it is" they would have said back then. "that's how war is fought."

that would be a great ending. i was going to do that. but it would be too pointed. i don't have a secure enough place on any stance here to leave it that strong. i don't know about all this. a lot of it seems like rambling to me. maybe all this writing will hurt some girl i am dating in the future if i were to be so lucky as to have that happen after this post. ha. maybe i'll look back on all this and shake my head at how foolish and naive i was. me the unmarried man talking about all this like i had some idea of how it all really is. who knows. but i throw all this out there because i know i'm not alone in all this. so we'll see how it hits.


i believe

who's in first in the al central? oh yeah, that's right. the royals.

of course the texas rangers and the toronto blue jays lead the other two al divisions. so let's not get too carried away. but hey, as a royals fan you gotta take your victories when you can get them. and our top 3 starters look great.


tyler linked this article, so maybe you've already read it. but if you haven't, perhaps looked and saw that it was really long, i just want to put it out there again. i'm not saying i agree with every bit of it--but it just has a lot of goodness to it. take the time. read it.


a chance of rain

just like the storm
you're sure to come
as surely
as a rain in the morning.

tomorrow is a forecast.
its percentages nearly trivial,
over-arching such a people.

but given enough time,
any prediction will be right--
the rains will come;
the water will rise.

life's too heavy
for one soul to hold.

something held that cannot be released.
unable to let go though the muscles burn.
the only relief is to stop,
to lay down and no longer move forward.

but we are a driven people.
every moment counts;
you're only young once.

the mistakes and choices you make--
you'll have to live with them forever,
so take control
and ignore the fact that
you can't pick the weather.

we don't see it right do we?
our calls for the future,
or our remainders of the past.
at the clouds we can only look upward.

every sun is scorching;
every rain is drenching;
every wind is jolting;
every fall is a failure.

all at once you find
the cup is brimming over.

let us be filled by the crushed grapes.
let the plant spring forth from a broken seed.

let us find the way that we simply must go,
for the only way to cross the rushing waters
is over a river frozen.


the appleseed cast

"the new stage (for so long)"


jonathan wilson-hartgrove

from the book "new monasticism":

We cannot overlook the fact that America's loneliness stems from an economy that demands our allegiance when it comes to where we live. We often acknowledge, sometimes with a hint of pride, that ours is a mobile society. Middle-class people in our culture feel free to relocate almost anywhere for a good education or a better job. But we ultimately do not experience this as freedom. Without people who know us well, we feel alone. At most we hope to spend our adult life with the person we marry, but even marriage doesn't seem to last very well without the context of community. Divorce is no longer a tragedy but rather an expected heartache for the lonely traveler.

In such a culture of divorce, small groups and storytelling will not be enough to root us in the reality of the people of God. Churches will also have to call people into higher-commitment membership. We have to find ways to get people to stick around. Maybe the only way to do that is to ask people to pledge their allegiance to the church. Of course, the minute you start talking about allegiance to a particular community, people in America worry that you're becoming a cult. Allegiance to the nation is normal. Allegiance to one's family is understandable. But allegiance to a church? That makes people nervous.

But if pledging our allegiance is a way of saying who we are and where we're going, then Christians have to pledge ourselves to the people of God. If our home is in God's kingdom, we cannot pledge our ultimate allegiance to America. If God is our Father, the nuclear family cannot be our god. Instead, we've got to say that our primary commitment is to the church. But for those words to have any real meaning, churches will have to get serious about membership. We need to name our commitments to each other and develop a process to determine whether God is calling an individual to leave our community or whether the forces of the economy are simply tearing us apart. If God's plan is to save the world through a holy people, it makes sense that the devil would want to separate us. But we cannot be deceived by the devil's schemes. We should know better. After all, all those you's in our Bible are ya'lls.

speaking of the economy, chris posted a really interesting video the other day--this was my favorite quote from it:

You cannot carry on forever squeezing the productive bit of the economy in order to fun the unprecedented engorgement of the unproductive bit. You cannot spend your way out of recession or borrow your way out of debt.
--Member of European Parliament Daniel Hannan

have a good palm sunday.



expectations/disappointment is a subject of conversation that has come up several times now with a friend of mine, and i really would like to explore it more--how it affects our lives and our faith. i would really hope for this to be a conversation as well, so any comments would be greatly appreciated.

i've heard depression described as "shattered expectations." does that perhaps give us some sort of insight into why depression is so rampant in our culture these days? maybe the problem is not that we just have so many bad things happening to us (as people who are in many third world countries are generally happier than americans), but that we have all given into a false expectation of what we are supposed to expect out of life--out of our relationships, our possessions, our actions.

where does this come from? does it come from our overly scientific approach to reality? that there should be a simple cause/effect relationship between what we do and what happens. and then life doesn't follow those rules. or is it that we are so saturated with marketing that tells us our toothbrush will make our lives more happy? that we expect every product to deliver some piece of what we are missing. is it our churches? that tell us the Lord will bless you and will work out everything to your good (with a narrow interpretation on what "blessings" are).

the reasons are rampant. i'm sure there are many more. through the mix of them all it is apparent that this is pervasive across most if not all of the american subcultures. we've all bought into these expectations no matter our economic/social class, religion, race, location. we all think that life owes us something. and that we deserve the best. or if not the best at least something that is on a level with what everyone else seems to have (which is a very high level).

some of us have different beliefs as to how we get there, but getting there is always the goal. and when we fall short of it for one reason or another (our fault or another's), we experience strong disappointment. and God seems to make his way in the mix:

"American evangelicals believe there is a crisis afoot over whether God is good enough for Americans to believe in him. Jesus demonstrated the goodness of God by including the outcasts and accepting the last, lost, least and overlooked. Evangelicals want God to make their life great…now."
--from internetmonk

we all operate on a rewards-based system. if we do what God wants then he will bless me, he will make my life good. everything else is rewards-based. if you work hard you'll get good grades, a good job, a great family, etc. it all just takes some good 'ole fashion protestant work-ethic grit. we put our money in the machine and we'll get what we pay for. and we'll get it right away. it's reliability. and often God doesn't seem so reliable.

we expect guarantees, even when we really have no promise and we just assume we know how the "machine" works. this leads to massive disappointment and shattered expectations--along with indignant reactions.

but perhaps life is a little more like a seed. if you plant it perhaps it will grow. many factors go into it, and it requires great care and patience. and sometimes it just doesn't grow. sometimes the soil is bad, or other factors we can't explain. you don't necessarily expect the seed to grow. you believe it will. you hope it will. but it's not in your control. unless you have perfected the science of farming and controlled all the external factors through massive expensive machinery--but that only reinforces the point, that we believe we can control all those factors in our own lives.

control is a big part of it. that's what's nice about rewards-based systems--you know how it works and you just have to live up to your end of the bargain.

the thing is, God doesn't really work on that system. and neither does love. huh, funny how those two go together. the fact is we don't always get what we deserve, especially from God. and more often than not that is probably a good thing. besides what good things we think we deserve would probably rarely be due to us even if there was a system.

of course i operate under all these assumptions myself, even if i seem to identify them now. disappointment is something i can't help but struggle with. or can i help it? we all have expectations for our lives, things we would like to see happen, ways we thought it would always play out--at least to some extent. i think part of my problem is that i believe that these expectations are what is best for me, when really i can't be certain of that at all.

but what is the answer? should you just simply lower your expectations? then you won't be disappointed so much. but then it seems as if your life is in some way muted. you can't fully enjoy the good things that actually do happen.

i've read some spiritual writings that talk about detachment--not in a stoic entirely removed way, but not attaching your desires to your fulfillment and joy. i'm not sure what i think about this; i am still wrestling with it. part of me thinks it sounds so removed, without real hope, disingenuous, and not very like Jesus. but then again maybe it is. maybe you have to live this way, seeing detachment as a form of surrender of your life to God--making your emotions no longer the judge. i still don't really understand it though.

so are we doomed to go through life suffering disappointment and letdown? that's life. is it? we learn to heal and we learn to cope. we lose our youthful idealism and optimism. and as you get older and older you have taken enough hits that you are ready to be done with it all, ready to be spared any more of it? is there another way to live? can we truly ever come to the place of taking ourselves out of the center of our own experience?

thoughts? please chime in here anytime.


do you tweet?

ok, ok. i might take a little heat for this one. i know i've made a few jokes about it in the past, but after some reconsideration and talking to a few friends--especially a persuasive one, i've decided to get a twitter. it will be the most awesome twitter ever, as evidenced by my first update.

check it out!