Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You do things that you normally wouldn't

An amazing story, told by Chris Ware on This American Life, about play video cameras and the effects on kids:

Beethoven for the New Year

Amazon's offering an incredible deal today - The 99 Most Essential Beethoven Masterpieces for $1.99. I'm going to go out on a limb and say you have never had the opportunity to pick up this much music for so few pennies. Amazon continues to steal my heart from iTunes!

UPDATE: 1.49 GB, 15.8 hours of music, and (for me) more than 90 minutes to download!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Faith offers hope

Rick Reilly nails the story of the season (Christmas and football), and perhaps the story of the year.

(ht: Brian McLaren)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

More Seth

In a Christmas Day post, Seth asks:

So, why exactly are you planning on the future being just like it is now, but with better uniforms?


My wife and I have been privileged to attend 4 of the past 5 Catalyst conferences in Duluth, GA. This past October, one of the main stage speakers was Seth Godin, who gave a fabulous presentation based on the concepts he explored in his latest book Tribes. (He then proceeded to give everyone in the audience a free copy of the book!)

Seth is always worth listening to. Here's a video provided by TED (by the way, one of the most helpful Internet destinations I've found).

(ht: BNET)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brian Schulenburg at Pass the Salt posted way back in 2007 his Top 10 Issues the Church Will Face in the Next 10 Years. Click on the link to see his elaborations, but here's the list in a nutshell:

1. Soteriology
2. Open Theism
3. Homosexuality
4. Ecclesiology
5. Scripture
6. Social Issues
7. Red Letter Christians
8. Infighting
9. Consumerism
10. Culture

Obviously, #3 seems to be the biggest one, judging by media stories these days. However, I've been convinced for some time now that perhaps the greatest threat which the Church has been/is/will be battling is #9. And not just Jesus Junk, as Schulenburg writes, but the consumerist mindset which seems to rule the thinking of most USAmericans.

(ht: Todd Rhoades at MMI)


Worth a look: Aaron Shepard's Storytelling Page

Welcome to the freak show

Carl Trueman has a straightforward post concerning the (trumped up) controversy about Rick Warren being chosen to deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration, and I think he gets it right. Here's an excerpt:
You can have the hippest soul patch in town, and quote Coldplay lyrics till the cows come home; but oppose homosexuality and the only television program interested in having you appear will soon be The Jerry Springer Show when the audience has become bored of baiting the Klan crazies. Indeed, evangelicals will be the new freaks.

Statistics may lie...but these are amazing nonetheless

Found this recently (pardon me, but I don't remember on which RSS feed), and, after watching it, I couldn't not post it. Some of the numbers were well-known to me, but some of them were astonishing.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Missing out

In my denomination, there seems to be a prevailing mindset that in order to be extraordinary, you must aspire to be in professional ministry. A few strides have been made in recent years, but the majority opinion still seems to be that God's kingdom is built primarily by those in pulpit ministry. With that in mind, as I read this post by Seth Godin, I substituted "professional ministers" for "investment bankers and lawyers."

Seth says:
There must be hundreds of thousands of movers and shakers out there, people of all ages who are smart and get things done. And more and more, they're being motivated by the quest, or the outcome, or the people they work with, not just the cash payout. It's exciting beyond words.

Exciting indeed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The odds are against US

Ran across this disturbing article in Asia Times Online. An excerpt:
Americans really, really don’t have a clue what is coming down the pike. The present shift in intellectual capital in favor of the East has no precedent in world history.

And this:
American musical education remains the best in the world, the legacy of the European refugees who staffed the great conservatories, and the best Asian musicians come to America to study. Thirty to 40% of students at the top schools are Asian, and another 20 to 30% are Eastern European (or Israeli). There are few Americans or Western Europeans among the best instrumentalists. According to the head of one conservatory, Americans simply don't have the discipline to practice eight hours a day.

One more:
Except in a vague way, one cannot explain the uniqueness of Western classical music to non-musicians, and America is governed not by musicians, but by sports fans.

Give people stories

Seth Godin, from his new book Tribes:

People don't believe what you tell them.
They rarely believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.
What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves. Stories about the future and about change.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Fall in Greene County, Tennessee. Simply stunning!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Best haiku ever?

If not, it has to be close. (Haiku by John Maeda.)
(ht: 20x200)

Monday, November 10, 2008

A lot can happen in 100 days

This chart, which has been making its rounds throughout the blogosphere, shows the most notable actions of presidents since FDR during their first 100 days.

A story from the back pages of history

Wil Haygood had a great piece in the Washington Post November 7th about Eugene Allen, a black butler who served in the White House during eight presidential administrations, and lived to cast his vote for a black man who would be elected President. The story is well worth the read, and it has a bittersweet ending.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

3 best things about the 2008 election

3. Excitement like this:

2. Tina Fey

1. It's over!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

November's faux hope

Christopher Cocca explains the reasoning behind his belief that he's better off for watching the MLB playoffs rather than the presidential debates. Maybe he's got a good point!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The fourth verse

A little over a month after the tragic death of his 5-year-old daughter Maria, Steven Curtis Chapman resumed his tour schedule. One of the ways in which he grieved was by writing a fourth verse for his song "Yours." The song just began getting airplay this week, and is scheduled for digital release next week. I came across this raw footage from a concert in Wheaton, IL, though, and thought it was worth posting. The power of the words is obvious.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How CCM is supposed to be

I'm not one to jump on the Contemporary Christian Music bandwagon anymore - many of the newer songs released seem like copies of one another. However, I did notice that today Bebo Norman released a song called "Britney." Here are the beginning lyrics.

Britney I'm sorry for the lies we told
We took you into our arms and then left you cold
Britney I'm sorry for this cruel cruel world
We sell the beauty but destroy the girl
Britney I'm sorry for your broken heart
We stood aside and watched you fall apart
I'm sorry we told you fame would fill you up
And money moves the man so drink the cup

The song is a moving Christian counter-response to the way in which culture has responded to the failures of a so-called pop princess. How refreshing to hear an artist presenting biblical truths and exposing the bankruptcy of Western culture! (Full lyrics here.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Is it that good?

Craig Detweiler, author of Reel Christianity and producer of Purple State of Mind, has posed the possibility that The Dark Knight could be the movie of the decade.

Funniest Video of the Month award

This video wins the award for the funniest thing I've seen all month. Joe Cocker, with subtitles for the clear-headed:

(ht: Ben Witherington)

Ebert reflects

Roger Ebert reflected this week on his time with Gene Siskel doing installments of "At the Movies." Here's one of his stories:
The day we fully realized it in our guts, I think, was the first time we were invited to appear with Johnny Carson. We were scared out of our minds. We'd been briefed on likely questions by one of the show's writers, but moments before airtime he popped his head into the dressing room and said, "Johnny may ask you for some of your favorite movies this year."
Gene and I stared at each other in horror. "What was one of your favorite movies this year?" he asked me. "Gone With the Wind," I said. The Doc Severinsen orchestra had started playing the famous "Tonight Show" theme. Neither one of us could think of a single movie. Gene called our office in Chicago. "Tell me some movies we liked this year," he said. This is a true story.
It's doubtful that anyone will ever become the go to movie reviewer that Ebert has been for the past three decades.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Billy the kid, er, young man

It's not the best acting, necessarily, or the highest budgeted film, by any means, but the subject matter is enough to get my attention - Billy Graham, the evangelist of the 20th century. In theaters this October.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Girl Effect

Dan Heath at Made to Stick deconstructs The Girl Effect, or more particularly, the video describing the concept:

(ht: JollyBlogger)

Earth, hands, mouth

The Marginal Revolution blog recently pointed readers to a story about the most important restaurant in America. Much of the charm of Blue Hill at Stone Barns:
Your expectations are further confounded by the menu. Don't look for conventional groupings of starters, main courses, and dessert. They're nowhere to be found on the Blue Hill at Stone Barns menu. Instead you are confronted by this:
List of ingredients on the menu.

On the left side is just a list of all the ingredients Barber and his cohorts have at their disposal in the kitchen that day. The right side has a list of prices that depend on how many courses you have. Your server will ask you if there are any ingredients you don't want the kitchen to use in your meal, and after that you are in the kitchen's hands. Eating this way adds elements of surprise and a even a little drama to your restaurant experience.
I was instantly envious of New Yorkers who have already gotten to take part, even though my deep southern cooking roots cause me to read the dish descriptions and scratch my head.

Also, I love the quote on the restaurant's website:

Find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands and the mouth.
~Lanza Del Vasto~

Monday, July 21, 2008

Crashing into truth

Yesterday at God's Politics, Phyllis Tickle delivered "A Crash Course in Jesus Studies." Here's an excerpt:
[I]t should be no surprise that the Jesus who has emerged from all of this professional scholarship and lay furor is as multiform and various as the scholars and concerned laity who have engaged the quest. The end result, in fact, of our dozen or so decades of scratching through history is such a multiplicity of Jesuses that one has to say, "Whoa! Let's just hold up here a minute and think this thing through a bit more clearly."
Story, perhaps, is better than intellectual argument in this kind of process.
And she tells a story, not necessarily one that's new, but a story nevertheless about perspectives which begins like this:
Let us suppose then. Let us suppose that there is a huge, deadly wreck on busy Main Street, USA, in the midst of midday traffic. There are, technically speaking, several hundred witnesses, albeit from very different perspectives.

The story is good, and yet I believe it is misleading. The story is one of many postmodern styled stories which seems to exalt individual understanding and experience above all other things. For sure, something happened, but exactly what happened will forever be subject to interpretation. I think Tickle's story, and her ultimate point, leaves no room for the firm assertion of multiple passages of Scripture that God's Spirit is the means by which the truth about Jesus is finally arrived at.
Don't get me wrong, I like Tickle's story, and I especially like her conclusion:
[E]very single one of us, if we live another decade or so, is going to have to decide what he or she thinks not only about the crash, 2,000 years ago, of Messiah into space/time but also about how we understand and engage the records of that event that have come to us over the centuries. Pray God we do it well.

I for one believe, and am extremely grateful, that God didn't leave it entirely up to us to figure it out. The truth is out there, and God's Spirit is our chauffeur on the road to that truth.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kings of the road

Talk about two guys having some fun together! From August 30, 1969, this is just great:

Roger Miller and Johnny Cash

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ideological warfare

James K. Glassman explains How To Win the War of Ideas.


Trading noise - for free!

Musician Derek Webb, along with a few friends, has decided that there are benefits to giving music away. Check out his new site, NoiseTrade, and download some tunes. You can pay if you want, or you can submit friends' e-mail addresses so they, too, can share the wealth.

Great site with great music - well worth checking out.

(ht: Collide)

Friday, July 11, 2008

If you want to win their hearts...

Andrew Klavan writes in City Journal about visiting an inner city elementary classroom, and fascinating the kids, not just with his storytelling ability, but because of his unknowing example of being, as the teacher put it, "a man - obviously tough - who's not a gangster." Klavan writes:

The teacher told me that she once had to explain to the class why her last name was the same as her father’s. She dusted off the whole ancient ritual of legitimacy for them—marriages, maiden names, and so on. When she was done, there was a short silence. Then one child piped up softly: “Yeah . . . I’ve heard of that.”

I’ve heard of that. It would break a heart of stone.

After delving more deeply into the heartbreak of the kids' situations, Klavan, a conservative, challenges:
Conservatives respond to this mostly with finger-wagging. But creativity has to
be answered with creativity. We need stories, histories, movies of our own. That
requires a structure of support—publishing houses, movie studios, review space,
awards, almost all of which we’ve ceded to the Left.

And he ends his story with these great words:
If you want to win their hearts, you have to tell them stories. I have reason to believe they’ll listen.

Talking about church growth

Billy vs Martin

Jim Henderson has bought into Rob Bell's assertion that American Christianity is shifting away from Billy Graham toward Martin Luther King, Jr. Henderson states in this post that Billy Grahams 1953 book, Peace with God, "appealed to the masses of Americans worshiping at the altar of individualism."

Interesting that for Henderson, justification and peace with God are individualistic (read: selfish) desires. And do you really think MLK would have done what he did without a firm grounding in the knowledge that he had obtained peace with God? The apostle Paul implored people with these words: "Be reconciled to God!" Was Paul selfish and individualistic to preach such a gospel? C'mon.

Once again, I think, leaders like Jim Henderson are straying from foundational Christianity into territory which has much less biblical support.


Beware of Bible experts.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


You need to watch this movie. Several times. Now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

He is Lord?

Read this recently:
It is thought provoking to note that while we blithely sing “He is Lord”. The notion of Jesus as Lord (rather than Jesus is Messiah) was initially a controversial one, borrowed from Pagan religious language.

Who says contextualization is improper for Christians?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pray that statistics do indeed lie

Can you believe this:
By 2050 there will be just 3,600 churchgoing Methodists left in Britain, Christian Research predicts. Anglicans will be down to 87,800, Catholics to 101,700, Presbyterians to 4,400, Baptists to 123,000 and independents to 168,000.

Actually, those statistics are for England. But can the U.S. be far behind?

Dream job?

There aren't too many jobs which grab my attention, but I have to admit a little envy for the guys who do this. (Scroll down the page for more pics.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Meeting of the minds

Stephen Colbert interviewed N.T. Wright. I only wish the segment had been twice as long!

Insightful words

Lisa Samson has penned a penetrating and powerful poem called "When a Eucharist of Humility Is Rejected."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Next stop...that big ball of fire

When I first read this fascinating NASA piece, I thought it was wishful thinking. Then I decided that I'd rather not be counted with disbelievers, since many thought (think?) travelling to the moon was impossible.

(ht: drudge)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

In Memory of Maria

I've said several prayers over the past week for the family of Steven Curtis Chapman. And I think Eugene Cho puts the sentiments of many into important words: In Memory of Maria - and Millions More

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Coolest video ever?

A blogger at Collide says this is the coolest video he's ever seen. After viewing it, I can't think of one that even comes close. Absolutely amazing!

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gotta love springtime

Stand up and cheer

Every once in a great while, a commercial comes along that makes you smile, stand up, and cheer. After a long void, here is that commercial:

(ht: Beside the Queue via Opus)

One sermon wonder

If you're interested in some breakdowns of top-selling books and authors in 2007, this post is a great read. I especially liked the comment on Joel Osteen's book:
Joel Osteen must live a charmed life. His Become a Better You sold 1,181,173 copies, which is amazing when you consider the guy only has one sermon.

Line of the day 04/19/08

"I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid." (G.K. Chesterton)

(ht: a blog I don't remember)

Athenians we shall be!

Were Neil Postman to be invited to speak at a graduation ceremony, he would briefly summarize the worldviews of the Athenians and the Visigoths, and he would challenge graduates to aspire to become Athenians. What a speech!

Birth - to be there or not to be there

Iwas present for the birth of both of my children. Each experience was unique and miraculous and overwhelming. However, reading "A top obstetrician on why men should NEVER be at the birth of their child" almost persuades me that Michel Odent's position is the correct one. And he has science and history on his side.

Imperfect heroes

Power Line has the transcript of a speech given at the White House by Wilfred McClay in honor of the 265th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth. The whole speech is worth reading, but these lines are extraordinary:
Our era is possessed by a small-minded rage against the very idea that imperfect men can still be heroes. But we badly need such heroes. In fact, we can’t live without them.

Perhaps, in the past, we have been too prone to place our forebears on a pedestal. But it is far worse, to feel compelled always to cut the storied past down to the size of the tabloid present. Perhaps the time has come for that to change. Perhaps we are wise enough now, to know that imperfect heroes are the only kind there ever are, or can be.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Line of the day 04/12/08

As soon as beauty is sought not from religion and love, but for pleasure, it degrades the seeker. (Annie Dillard)

(ht: Jeffrey Overstreet)

Sanctified resignation


"A curious warning is given to us in Peter’s first epistle. There he tells us to be ready to give the reason for the hope that lies within us to everyone who asks (3:15). Now, what’s strange about that passage is this: no one ever asks. When was the last time someone stopped you to inquire about the reason for the hope that lies within you? You’re at the market, say, in the frozen food section. A friend you haven’t seen for some time comes up to you, grasps you by both shoulders and pleads, “Please, you’ve got to tell me. Be honest now. How can you live with such hope? Where does it come from? I must know the reason.” In talking with hundreds of Christians, I’ve met only one or two who have experienced something like this.

Yet God tells us to be ready, so what’s wrong? To be blunt, nothing about our lives is worth asking about. There’s nothing intriguing about our hopes, nothing to make anyone curious. Not that we don’t have hopes; we do. We hope we’ll have enough after taxes this year to take a summer vacation. We hope our kids don’t wreck the car. We hope our favorite team goes to the World Series. We hope our health doesn’t give out, and so on. Nothing wrong with any of those hopes; nothing unusual, either. Everyone has hopes like that, so why bother asking us? It’s life as usual. Sanctified resignation has become the new abiding place of contemporary Christians. No wonder nobody asks. Do you want the life of any Christian you know? (John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, p. 64)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Laughing to the Prize

Is there a funnier, more biting political commentator out there than Michael Ramirez? The cartoon below was my favorite from the past year, but given that he just won a Pulitzer Prize, it's worth checking out the archives, starting with his winners here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Plank in eye

This article starts out as a strong criticism against prosperity preachers, but ends up with the author gazing into the mirror. Well done, sarcastic lutheran.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A letter worth reading

I'm not crazy about politics, and this year's crop of presidential candidates leaves me thoroughly unexcited the longer the primary season drags on. However, I am taken by the reaction - media, supporters, dissenters - to every big or little scandal, accomplishment, speech and mis-speech.

Reaction to Obama's race speech was pretty much what I expected - those who support him gauged it to be one of the greatest speeches in their lifetime, and those who do not support him complained that he gave no answers and ultimately avoided the real questions which led to the speech. I don't think any ground was gained or lost.

I will say, however, that the best follow-up to Obama's speech I've come across is this open letter by Lionel Chetwynd. Agree or not with his concluding challenge to Obama, it's hard to deny the raw emotion of the letter.

(ht: Power Line)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

3000 years in the making

Having just gotten to see the movie Atonement, and having read the book three months ago, I found this article by Alan Roxburgh quite engrossing. Roxburgh contends that there's no hope of properly interpreting the movie's narrative without engaging 3000 years of Western history, including Thomas Hardy, Hieronymus Bosch, and Nietzsche.

Book, movie, and analysis are all great.

Line of the day

"Some people are always going to be offended when you actually teach them what's in the Bible as opposed to what they assume is in the Bible."(N.T. Wright)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Here's to creativity

Enough whining about declining album sales. Just get fans to fund your project, and you won't have to worry about sales at all.

(HT: Collide)

A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll

Good harmony on a great song:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Same old, same old

For all the talk of the speech’s having enabled a new and more meaningful conversation, it in fact stressed the familiar and comforting liberal tropes of white oppression and black victimhood.

Your brain on music

Most of us have our unscientific opinions about how music affects us, but this article is fascinating as it describes the discoveries scientists are making in studying the issue.

Also, here's a book which delves into the issue: This Is Your Brain on Music.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Line of the day

"He had that ferocious, orgasmic gleam in his eye of somebody who was living in the climax of his own movie." (Paul Constant)

We could call it church

This passage from Ed Gungor's Religiously Transmitted Diseases is right on:

I have a dream of being part of a Christian community where you can be honest about your doubts and fears without being met with worn out clich├ęs or empty platitudes; a place that recognizes faith as a time-laded growth process, not the product of an “instant pudding” altar prayer; a place where you can get help today but be challenged to grow so you’re better prepared to face tomorrow; a place of intimacy, where you can know and be known; a place where it is hard not to find God; a place where finding God is as corporate as it is personal; a place where you belong whether you’re single, married, divorced, widowed, young, old, rich, poor, smart, dull, thin, fat, beautiful, or ugly; a place where you can find meaningful service, where you commit to something bigger than yourself; a place that needs you; a place of safety; a place off-limits to witches, demons, and the walking dead – the safest place in the world.

We could call it church. (Nashville: Nelson Books, pp. 50-51)

The reading does not the classic make

Perhaps you've seen this, but I'm just getting around to posting it. A graph showing the correlation between favorite books of college students (by college), and average entrance exam scores. The title of the post: Books That Make You Dumb.

What do you think? I'm struggling with Lolita as the book preference of the smartest kids.

However, I'm more inclined to believe the results of Music That Makes You Dumb, since Beethoven is by far the choice of the smartest. Also, it's amazing that the graph reveals how much mediocrity there is in college.

To speak, or not...

Some of the best speaking advice ever.

Hunting Osama

Came across this a while back: If Osama's Only 6 Degrees Away, Why Can't We Find Him? The famous 5 degrees of separation theory fades under scrutiny.

Best Writing preview

One day, hopefully soon, I'll be getting a blog going which highlights the best writing I've found on the Web. In the meantime, if you haven't already found the website for City Journal, it's a great site with some very good writing.

Here's an article to start with: The Rainbow Coalition Evaporates.