When pigs fly

... or cows fall. Of course, pigs flying would be more appropriate since I am going to quickly mention the 4-1 Cincinnati Bengals.

So, I have been a Bengals fan my entire life. I grew up in Cincinnati, and I was in middle school when Boomer Esiason (I will spill the beans on a VERY awkward meeting I had with him at a later date... let's just say, he might rightly have a restraining order against me, or at least have been extremely creeped out) led them to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I had to watch them lose on a (admittedly) spectacular 84 second drive - the length of the field - orchestrated by the great Joe Montana. However, they were, are, and always will be my team.

But, because they were the losingest (not sure that's a word) franchise in the '90s and not much hotter in the early '00s, they have brought a lot of pain in my life. I remember dreading Sundays because I knew I would get my hopes up only to see them dashed upon the rocks... or the shoulder pads of some better managed team.

Hold the phone! Now, I can wear my Palmer jersey proud. I can wear my old Bengal's t-shirt with honor (that way people know that I am not just jumping on the bandwagon, well at this point it is probably more of a bandscooter). My Bengals are 4-1 and in 1st place in the AFC North. I just wish I could actually see them on television.



My wife has been looking for a job in Chicago for a few months now, and she is frustrated. The job market (especially in her field) is bleak. She put her resumé in for a part-time position recently, and the guy hiring told her that he received 80 resumés in less than a week for a job for which he was expecting to hire a student. The search sucks.

However, I think the hardest part about trying to find employment is the concept of "selling" yourself. How do you do that without sounding like an arrogant ass? You are supposed to accentuate (exaggerate?) your strengths, ignore your weaknesses, and basically show them why they would be idiots not to hire you. However, you don't want to sound like you are over-confident or incapable of working with a team or taking instruction from a boss. You are supposed to be a "self-starter" who can follow directions... seems like an oxymoron.

My wife struggled with this for a while, but I think she found a great way to allow her resumé to build her up while still showing humility. Instead of singing her own praises, she gathered quotes from former co-workers, colleagues, and supervisors and placed them in the margins. Not only was it a creative use of a part of the paper that goes unused, but it shows that those she has worked with/for valued what she brought to the table. It's like sneaking in extra references while enhancing the visual presentation of the resumé. Smart.

Still, it is a tough balance to market yourself as indispensable while not sounding egotistical.


Guilty Pleasure

I am fairly certain that I wrote about this before, but I felt compelled to confess once more...

Two years ago (well, more like a year and a half) I was sitting on the couch reading for a class. My wife came in, picked up the remote control - which is unlike her since she usually doesn't watch much television - and proceeded to put it on the CW. I asked her what she was watching and if I should go to the other room. She skated around what she was going to watch and said that I might want to adjourn to the spare room and my desk. I pressed the issue. Finally, after some cajoling and the opening montage of the show, I found out that my lovely wife was a Gossip Girl junkie.

I began to totally make fun of her for watching that sort of trash. Now, don't get me wrong. When the original 90210 came out, I was in Junior High and definitely watched eagerly. I watched every Real World from season 1 (wow, I am dating myself here) through season 5 when people actually "stopped being polite," but instead of starting "to get real," they just hooked up... a lot... in the mandatory hot tub... on the first night. All this to say, I have watched some trash. But I hadn't been addicted to a high school soap opera since before my voice dropped and I got armpit hair (which, incidentally, the voice dropped when I was 13, but the hair didn't come until I was 17... late bloomer I guess). Now, my 20-something (soon to be 30-something... a former primetime soap opera about yuppies) was enthralled with over-privileged, borderline juvenile delinquents who manage to avoid consequences because of their parents' astounding wealth and social power.

So, I decided to continue reading on the couch in order to be able to point out my wife's ridiculousness. Mistake.

I asked my wife who the characters were, and she began to relate the story line. I asked a few more questions. Then, Chuck Bass, the conniving ladies man with a fantastic wardrobe (which I could never pull off... I mean, who wears lavender??) said the line, "There's something wrong with that level of perfection, it needs to be violated." A VILLIAN!! I instantly liked this guy. Not because I found him honorable, but because he almost epitomized decadence and everything that's wrong in the world, and I wanted to see if he ever "got his" in the end. I was hooked.

All this to say, last night my wife was able to leave work early, and we were able to catch up on the last two episodes of Gossip Girl. It is our guilty pleasure. Usually it involves wine or champagne (technically it's sparkling white wine since champagne only comes from the Champagne Region in France, but that's just semantics), and we sit back and watch the mayhem unfold. It's fun, in a sick and twisted - not to mention voyeuristic sort of way - and we enjoy being together doing this.

I have come to the conclusion that everyone has these guilty pleasures. I don't think they are wrong (unless of course they involve physical or emotional damage to you or others... like adultery or something to that effect). Rather, they are a way to blow off some steam, and perhaps they can serve to bring two people - or more - who share the same guilty pleasure together a little more.

So, what's your guilty pleasure?


Status Update

Dave is ready to get back in the groove.

Wow, it's been a while. Crazy schedule the past couple of months, but I am back. I am getting back into a rhythm. This pattern, the one I've found to be healthiest for me, consists of working out regularly, not sleeping in too late, not staying up too late (though that has some wiggle room depending on deadlines), doing the chores around the apartment, and blogging regularly. I won't promise everyday since life can get in the way and I want to avoid frustration by not getting caught up in the legalism of maintaining a schedule. Rather, I will promise myself that I will get back in shape: mentally, physically, and spiritually. Thus, my update is that, at the moment, I am fat, disorganized, and lazy, but with hope.



Kristy and I have been trying to sell a house for over 3 years. We loved the house in Pennsylvania.
So many amazing things took place there. We will never forget the two weeks that ten people and one dog shared the two bedroom/one bathroom home. Kristy and I slept in our room, four girls slept in the spare room, and four guys slept in the garage (we sort of converted it to a room). We shared food, stayed up late playing cards, and laughed. What an amazing two weeks.

The house allowed us to learn a ton about hospitality and living with open doors.

But we have been forced to try a Short Sale, which is when the house sells for less than what is owed, but the bank agrees to basically forgive the outstanding amount. It hurts your credit but no to the extent that a foreclosure does. Well, the realtor found a buyer. Our contract stated that the realtor would get 6% for their part... pretty standard. However, the contract also stated that all aspects of the contract are subject to the approval of the lender, and they only agreed to pay 4%.

Well, our realtor is coming after us for the other 2%. We have another realtor who has been representing us with the lender and communicating with the realtor in PA, and she has assured me that we don't owe the money. I tried to appeal to our realtor (the person who is supposed to represent our interests in this deal) to waive the 2% since the reason we are doing a Short Sale is because we are in a bit of financial distress. Kristy has been unemployed since February and we are in the process of moving to Chicago for me to go to school. We don't have any income at this moment. Unfortunately, the realtor basically said no.

So, now I have played the contract card. I told him that it was clear in the contract that whatever the loan holder agreed to is what is expected. Since they only agreed to 4%, that is all the realtor gets.

My fear is that the realtor backs out and we are forced to take them to court. I have a big problem with the idea of suing someone. I feel we should try to work things out as best we can without relying on the court system. I have never had to sue anyone in the past and don't want to ever have to do it. This whole situation makes me sick to my stomach. This realtor is coming after us for less than $400 (he is making over $3,000 on the sale already). If I had it, I would give it to him. But coming after us for money at this point is like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.



I hate busy work. Partially because I am so A.D.D. that it is excruciatingly painful for me to concentrate from beginning to end of a task that ultimately has zero importance. The other reason is that I am unbelievably prideful and hate kowtowing to the demands of someone else.

I just finished a bit of (what I believe) pointless busy work. I will be starting seminary in the fall, and McCormick apparently requires its incoming Juniors (that's what a Freshman is called at seminary... weird I know) to submit a writing sample. Now, mind you, most graduate schools and seminaries require a writing sample during the application process. All the other places I applied to asked me to submit a paper that I had written during my undergraduate education. McCormick did not require one.

However, after I had been accepted, given a scholarship, and sent my intent to enroll I was informed that I had to write a 750 word response to a small article. Everyone was given the same article and guidelines. After typing, I had to print it out, sign and date it (to insure that I did it all by myself), and send it to be analyzed as to whether I would need help with writing while in seminary. I fully understand that some people are coming in after being out of college for quite sometime. I also am aware that some do have difficulty with writing on a scholarly level. But, I think it a bit ridiculous not to just have us submit something that we had already written (if available).

Further, shouldn't we trust each other? I have two ways this idea of trust was dismissed in this process. First, if you don't trust me to complete an assignment on my own when you ask me to, why did you let me into seminary? Second, if someone needs help with their writing, shouldn't, at this level, we expect them to seek it out on their own?

I didn't really mind doing this writing. It was not particularly difficult and the topic was sort of interesting. It is more the principle. Okay, I'm done ranting now.


Waiting is the hardest part

Kristy and I have been in Colorado for a month. We are staying with her parents. Their house sits high on the slope of a small mountain, looking over a reservoir, and the views are spectacular. Every night there are millions of stars, while every morning the sun sparkles on the water down below. A family of deer live in the thicket right outside the house. In all, it is beautiful.

However, we get no cell phone service at the house (a tough thing when you are trying to sell a house, a car, get everything organized for when you get to your final destination, etc.). Civilization is a half an hour away... and it's not a lot of civilization. I have come to realize that I enjoy visiting the outdoors and wilderness, but I am a city boy at heart and could never live out here. None of this is to say that we don't love being here. In fact, we are having a great time, but we are excited to get going.

We are about to enter a new chapter in our life together. Another move, but one that will provide us with a little more financial freedom. Not a lot of freedom, but the fact that rent is paid for the next three years is pretty cool for people who have been paying a mortgage on a house we haven't lived in for over three years. Also, the opportunities available for us in Chicago are vast. I get to be trained for a job I am excited about. I also will have the opportunity for stellar education. Kristy's job prospects are great, and if she wants to go back to school she can.

Basically, we are enjoying ourselves at the moment... trying to take advantage of this time with her parents as well as just the rest we are able to get right now. Yet, we want to get going... we want to get settled... we are ready for the next stage... and, to quote Tom Petty, waiting is the hardest part.



Yesterday, the bishops of the Episcopal Church (the American branch of the Anglican Church) voted to allow gays and lesbians full participation in any ordained ministry (see NY Times full article). This move was not made sans controversy. There is a strong contingent within the Episcopal Church that opposes the full participation of active homosexuals in the life of the church, both in the U.S. and in Africa which has a very vocal branch of the Anglican Church as well. Here, there have already been four dioceses that have split to form a new denomination.

There are many theological arguments on both sides of this issue. Despite what one thinks is right, I get extremely frustrated when someone suggests that those on the other side either don't "know what the Bible says" or simply don't care. The issue of someone psychologically wired (perhaps even genetically though that has yet to be conclusively shown) for same sex attraction entering into a committed, monogamous relationship with another person pre-disposed for same sex attraction is never discussed in the Bible. Homosexual physical acts are, but they seem to always be in the context of the acts being unnatural for those who are participating in them. Of course it is unnatural and wrong for someone who is not pre-disposed for same sex attraction to simply engage in such acts for mere pleasure... just like it is wrong for anyone to ever use another person as a sexual object without being in a committed, monogamous (and I would argue covenental) relationship. My point is, though the Bible does unequivocally condemn unnatural, same sex activity, it never mentions natural same sex activity. My conclusion, this seems to be an issue that can go either way biblically.

That is why I have trouble with people on either side condemning the other. Each side must make their argument AND be willing to be convinced by the other side if that argument rings true. If I have learned anything so far, it is that when I think I know, without a doubt, what the Bible says, I am soon challenged by the same Bible with passages that seem to contradict what I had thought was 100% truth.

People must follow their God-given consciences. If that leads some to sever denominational relations then so be it. I love the phrase fiat justitia, ruat caelum or let justice be done, though the heavens fall (or do justice even if the sky falls down). If you think something is right, do it. I think the only stipulation is that it is never right to do something wrong in the name of doing something right. Take the murder of George Tiller as an example of how NOT to apply this Latin phrase. It is impossible to be "pro-life" and commit a murder.

My own denomination is wrestling with this issue. I have very close friends and mentors on polar opposites of this issue. Both love God, and both love others. Both believe the Bible. What do you do with that?? It comes down to how you read the Bible. One might say they take everything literally... but they most likely don't. Another might say only certain passages are authoritative... but, that is tantamount to saying that only they (the person) are authoritative since they are deciding what passages are useful. The appropriate, in my view, response is to simply acknowledge that the entire Bible has something important to say to those who call themselves Christian. However, all of us... every single one... picks and chooses which verses we think have bigger things to say than others. A professor friend of mine, a student and friend of Walter Brueggemann's, told me that Brueggemann would come into his classes and challenge everyone that each person bases their theology on 40 verses. He would then assign his students to figure out which 40 verses they use. Brueggemann himself has stated:

Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said that the arc of history is bent toward justice. And the parallel statement that I want to make is that the arc of the Gospel is bent toward inclusiveness. And I think that’s a kind of elemental conviction through which I then read the text. I suspect a lot of people who share this approach simply sort out the parts of the text that are in the service of inclusion and kind of put aside the parts of the text that move in the other direction.

Asked what he does with the rest of the verses, he says we must take them seriously, but that it is impossible to take every verse equally... no one does that.

This issue of homosexuality will continue to be divisive. People must follow their conscience and their interpretations of scripture, but they must also respect that those who disagree with them are simply doing the same thing. There is room for all within Christianity. Christ commanded us to love one another... we must seek to do that first. If that is our attitude, positive debate is possible, and the ability to agree to disagree won't lead to further splits.


Happy Birthday

So today is John Calvin's (or Jean Cauvin) 500th birthday. Granted, he died a while ago, but many of his ideas lived on and continue to influence western society to this day.

There is much to criticize about Calvin. His Geneva became as oppressive and violent as the Inquisition. His intellect and desire to win a debate allowed him to be trapped in a debate regarding pre-destination that has overshadowed much of his other work in the eyes of the average person. He viewed his own theology as 100% correct, to the point he ordered the suppression and execution of dissenters... an attitude that contradicted the premise of the Reformation.

However, Calvin did make an enormous contribution to the Reformation, Western Civilization and the World, and today is a day to celebrate that without covering up his faults and abuses.

My personal favorite idea of Calvin is the sacredness of the mundane. Granted, this was not an entirely new concept. Many monks had discovered the spiritual benefits of not only prayer and study, but of work as well. Calvin was simply able to transport this idea out of the monasteries and into the minds of everyday people. Every job was important and should be done with an attitude of worship, as if doing it unto God. This concept set the stage for the eventual breakdown of the Three Orders (oratores: those who pray, bellatores: those who fight, laboratores: those who work... these are listed in the order of importance according to the minds of Calvin's day and up until the Enlightenment in France) and allowed those previously thought beneath clergy and royalty to directly please God through their own labor and contribution to society.

Calvin, in a sense, created what is known as the Protestant Work Ethic and had a profound impact on the development of the eventual United States. Now, I do believe that it has been twisted somewhat. Today, many believe that if you work hard, you will succeed. Unfortunately, there are many who work hard and do not succeed. To those people it is often assumed that they are guilty of some sort of sin that is preventing their hard work from paying off. This is not always (if ever) the case. Calvin stood solidly with the poor and would denounce the idea that the community is not to help those less fortunate. However, he would agree with 2 Thessalonians 3:10 which says: "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat." But, he understood also that what the writer of 2 Thessalonians was decrying was an abandoning of participation in the world and simply waiting idly by until the return of Christ. Calvin wanted, as did the writers of the New Testament, the followers of Christ to be active in the redemption of this world by interacting with it in the ways shown by Jesus. Calvin saw work and integral in one's ability to influence their surroundings as well as something deeply holy.

So, happy birthday John Calvin.



Does it really count as a vacation if you fill out a change of address form for the place you are staying? This summer, my wife and I are moving to Chicago so that I can attend seminary. We chose Chicago because I was offered a full scholarship (which covers housing as well) for the three years we are there. Furthermore, it puts us close to my parents, friends who live in the city, and has plenty of opportunities for my wife as well as for me to pursue a PhD. after seminary.

However, we had to be out of our apartment in Jacksonville by June 15th and can't move into our place in Chicago until August 3rd. So, we are homeless for the next few weeks. Kristy's parents live outside Durango, Colorado and we decided to stay with them for that time. We have no home of our own... so one could argue we moved in with my in-laws. From the outside, this looks like a really long vacation, but in reality it is simply a blessing to have family that can help you out when you need it.

Really, the church should be a family like that. When I have something that someone else needs, I should jump at the opportunity to provide for that person. I know I have been on the receiving end pretty often in my life. No matter whether I am giving or receiving, I feel blessed to be a part of the process of God working through community.

From what I hear, community is a big part of the seminary experience. I am looking forward to living across the hall from the same people I will attend class with, debate with, get frustrated with, laugh with, cry with, and provide for as well as depend on for the next few years. While I was with Young Life in Northern Kentucky, we experienced a level of community that I want to strive for even today. The sharing of meals, housing, cars, money, and lives hearkened back to the Acts 2 example. It was amazing, and it has profoundly shaped me.

This time in Colorado has been great so far. I have started on my studies so that I can hit the ground running in Chicago. I have also taken some time to read a few books that I wanted read as opposed to them being assigned.

Anne Lamott is an author that I adore. I don't always agree with her, but she is brutally honest and vulnerable and her ability to craft words is top notch. I also read Desire of the Everlasting Hills by Thomas Cahill. Another one I would highly recommend. Overall, this homelessness/vacation has been reinvigorating and I will be ready to get going come August.


I know, I know

So, I really wanted to be consistent with this blog, but the last month and a half was a bit crazy. I erased (for the most part) two research papers a week before they were due. I finished them, graduated, went on a cruise, and have been working at my other jobs like crazy. Now, things are settled a little, but we are moving in 3 weeks, which means things are going to get even more insane.

Point is, I know I want to write on here once a day, but I am allowing myself the freedom to write when I can. Right now, I am working on a post about "being still." Hopefully I will have it up in a couple of days.



April is National Poetry Month so I thought I would share one of my favorite poems today. But first, I would like to say why I think poetry is valuable. Dallas Willard admonishes Christians that they must learn to communicate passionately, effectively, and inspirationally the εὐαγγέλιον or "good news" (it's where evangelical comes from) if they are to truly impact their communities. He used the term 'wordsmith' to describe what we must become. I believe the most effective tool for honing our ability to craft language is to read and listen to talented writers and speakers. Poetry is the supreme art-form of using words, and it should be a practice of everyone who desires to compellingly communicate the gospel. That being said, here is one of my favorite poems:

A Poison Tree by William Blake

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole.
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.

We must be willing to forgive, even when it is not sought. For if we cling to an incident where we were slighted, it will fester into bitterness, which will turn into a grudge, leading to an obsession for revenge. Only the action of forgiving leads to a life of freedom.

Oh, a book of poetry you should read is Zombie Haiku by my friend Ryan Mecum. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am not a connoisseur of the culture surrounding the undead.

And I love this movie.


Blasphemy or Hilarity?

I think God has a pretty good sense of humor; however, where does one draw the line? I am not saying this clip at all crosses it... in fact, I think it is cool that they actually talk about 'paying debts' and the sacrifice of it. Also, the ending where people forget so quickly is so true... at least of me.

Anyway... I thought this was hilarious so I thought I'd share it.


Case of the Mondays

So today is a little stressful. Kristy came back in town... which is great. Unfortunately, I have a huge paper due tomorrow. Now, I have been working on this thing for quite sometime, but I have also changed my mind on its structure and content several times. It is now crunch time. I have to have this thing done by 6am so that I can proofread it, print it, turn it in, and get to work on time in the morning.

The good part is that it is actually not due for the class until April 21st, but I am turning it in for the History competition and the entries are due tomorrow by noon.

Pretty much I am going to be up all night.

Again, I have not procrastinated at all. This is a completely new experience for me in that I have been working on it incessantly for weeks and am so consumed with it being perfect that I have revised and rewritten numerous times. I think I have it the way I want it but then I find a different angle.




I saw this Calvin on another blog and just had to re-post it. The final frame really hit me. It reminded me of The Velveteen Rabbit. My favorite character in the story is the Skin Horse and I thought I would share his story today....

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

...Don't we all.


'Sola Pastora'

For those down with Missional lingo, sola pastora isn't a new term. However, for those of us just learning, it is the label used for the propensity of many churches to employ (or worse... build themselves upon) a single, charismatic - as in attractive, eloquent, and exciting... not necessarily 'slain in the Spirit' - pastor, usually male.

It is dangerous for one person to have that much responsibility... for the church in general AND for that person specifically. No one can keep all of those plates spinning on their own. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that it is absolutely necessary to have more than one paid staff at a church. In fact, I am not saying it is even necessary to have any paid staff at a church. What I am saying is that the church - local and universal - needs to utilize the concept of the priesthood of all believers. We are each uniquely gifted, and we are each uniquely necessary to accomplish the work of the Kingdom of God.

For too long we have exalted the image of the 'Lone Ranger'. However, we forget that even Mr. Reid (the LR's real name... in the original he had no first name) had Tonto. Well, most actually do remember that. But did you know that the LR's nephew - the son of his brother who was killed by the bandits who also left LR for dead - Dan, and his trusty steed Victor (son of Silver), also helped LR? Also, there was a man who knew LR's secret. It was he who provided LR with all of the silver for his silver bullets.

Okay, now that you know I am an incredible dork... let me reiterate that churches need to move beyond their dependence on a single pastor... heck, beyond their dependence on the professional ministers... and begin to empower the laity for ministry. This is the true function of the pastor, and then to get out of the way... or better yet, join in.


Defining Success

Okay, so I don't know how to define success in the via positiva, but I like to think I know what isn't a good definition. Of course, a definition is based upon the perspective of the person. So, if someone's end goal is to have a lot of money, then they have achieved success when they get a large bank account. However, I am trying to figure out what it means to be successful from a "Kingdom of God" frame of mind. That forces another caveat... who the heck am I to determine what a "Godly point of view" is? I guess I am someone who is attempting to humbly (as much as that is possible) work this question out in the context of my own wrestling with God. A "Kingdom of God" perspective is therefore MY perspective based on MY understanding of scripture, tradition, history, eschatology, soteriology, christology, and probably a little bit of astrology (basically, everything I know about life I learned from a fortune cookie anyway). I am in no way trying to say that this is the only interpretation consistent with Christianity... just the one that makes sense to me.

I belong to a leadership organization (not gonna lie, mostly for the member perks and value it adds to a grad school application and/or résumé). Each month, they bring in (or participate via satellite) a speaker on leadership, motivation, success, etc. Too be blunt, I have not been impressed. Last month's speaker in particular made me consider quitting. To sum up his speech, you are successful if you determine your purpose and live out of that. Anything that is not 100% a part of your purpose should be abandoned. To find your purpose you need to figure out what you enjoy doing, the key quality will be that it brings little-to-no stress in your life, and do it... that is your purpose. Basically, he said to find what makes you happy, do that, and damn the consequences to everyone else.

He also spoke a lot about God (which was sort of strange since this is a secular organization on a state university campus... but his references seemed genuine and not contrived so they were very easy to overlook if you were not religious), but his version of God seemed to be a deity who desires for all of us to be happy. In fact, I think he said that exact phrase, "God wants you to be happy." Purpose brings happiness. All in all, it sounded very health and wealth gospel to me.

I disagree that God wants us to be happy or that happiness is in any way associated with success. Joy is a different matter. I believe that 'happy' is an emotion while 'joy' is a state of mind. I can choose to be joyful (in all circumstances even... 1Thess. 5:16), but I will NOT always be happy. It is dangerous to tell people that success is dependent upon feeling happy and without stress. It is deceitful to say that if you are doing what God wants you to do then you will always be happy and carefree. It is simply not true.

I have not found what success (on a grand scale) means, but I am positive it is not what that speaker espoused.


Family Influence

So I am a total NPR junkie. One of my favorite shows is "Wait, wait... don't tell me!" but my 2nd is "Fresh Air." Terry Gross hosts a two hour interview show, but it is not one consecutive interview. One hour is devoted to an important world or national or religious or... well, important... issue. The other is usually a fun person or issue. The other day she was interviewing Demetri Martin, one of my favorite stand-up comedians. If you haven't heard him, here is a sample.

In the interview, he was asked about where his comedy came from and the subject ended up on his family. His dad is a Greek Orthodox priest and his mom ran the family diner. I absolutely loved when he was talking about his father. Basically, he equated his father's sermons with a 20 minute performance. But, it was never performing. He said that his dad would get up with a few notes and through his storytelling he would share things that he genuinely believed were true in a humorous yet meaningful way.

He then began to talk about the power of being genuine.

Obviously his family had enormous influence on him. Great interview.



Bart Ehrman is the head of the Religious Studies department at the University of North Carolina. In his book Lost Christianities (read my review), he talks about the many different forms early Christianity assumed. Ultimately, he argues, one form (not without its own sub-sects and theological disagreements) emerged as the dominant form. He refers to it as the "proto-orthodox," and rightly states that all forms of Christianity today are its descendants.

I know that many, many protestants would reject this notion. They would claim that they are simply a resurgence of first century Christianity, but their declaration is shot out of the water when they have to answer: which first century Christianity are they manifesting?

Now, while I firmly agree that what became known as the Roman Catholic Church is the common ancestor of all modern forms of Christianity (even those who display many characteristics of earlier heresies), I also maintain that the RCC's contention that they have never changed doctrine is not true (I am NOT calling anyone a liar. I am merely stating that this particular claim is not true and has been promoted by well-meaning but misinformed people, not dishonest, or those who choose to ignore certain evidence).

What was orthodox at one time became heretical in another, and vice-versa. I have come to see that all forms of Christianity today (not the magazine... specifically) have elements that would have been considered heresy in an earlier age... even the RCC.

I was asked about the two most glaring examples of this last night. First, most Christians adhere to a form of gnosticism (the belief that it is special knowledge that brings salvation). If we are saved by grace, and we avail ourselves to that grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9), and the only faith we are capable of having must be given to us from God (Rom 12:3, 1 John 5:4, 2 Peter 1:1) then we require a special, supernatural, not available to all, knowledge to achieve salvation. Plus, the belief that only those who have been specifically empowered by the Holy Spirit can properly interpret scripture is another form of this idea of necessary γνωσις (Greek for knowledge) to be a full Christian. Unfortunately, there are over 2 billion Christians in the world today, each claiming their faith, thus claiming the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, yet biblical interpretation is far from uniform among them.

The second was the early heresy of dualism (Manichaeism... later associated with the supposed Cathars) and its resurgence in modern protestantism. Dualism espouses the belief in two distinct "powers" at work in the world: an ultimate good versus an ultimate evil. Here, good and evil exist in and of themselves. Usually they are personified in God as the supreme good and Satan (or perhaps Osama bin Laden) as the supreme evil, but they are dealt with as if they exist apart from these personifications. Dualism would state that these are equally and opposing forces at work. Now, most Christians would deny that aspect and say that God is more powerful than Satan... good is more powerful than evil. But to assert that these are actual forces at work is to call into question the ultimate good itself. If it is more powerful, why hasn't evil been eradicated? Furthermore, if everything originated from God, how did evil come into existence? Did the entirely benevolent God create evil, and, if so, could God have created a world without evil, and, if so, why didn't He/She? The most glaring illustration of this pervasive, semi-dualistic thinking occurred during the presidential candidate forum at Saddleback. Both candidates were asked if evils exists and what was the proper way to deal with it. Notice the second half of the question already assumes an affirmative to the first part.

How to avoid these? We need to stop claiming a direct line to God. No matter how "sure" we are of our relationship to God and the separation of those we classify as not belonging to our group, we must not assume that communication with God is a dispensation to speak FOR God. God and God alone will do the eternal dividing (I certainly hope there is not one in the line for separation but all are destined for eternity with God and each other). God is the author of all truth and we are simply guessing (I will grant that there is a strong element of educated guessing, but we must never claim to have a divinely revealed truth imparted only to us... what if we're wrong?).

As I've said before, to avoid dualism we MUST stop speaking of evil as a noun! If God is sovereign, completely good, all-loving, all-powerful, then He/She (yes, there appears to be female imagery in the bible for God) would not have created an entity diametrically opposed to God's own nature. Evil is an adjective used to describe actions born from humanity's separation from the ultimate good. In a sense, just like cold does not exist but is the absence of heat, evil is the adjective used to describe people, places, and events that choose to exist outside of relationship with the creator God.

The things to remember about heresy are: that heretics always thought (and still think) they are the orthodox, orthodox beliefs and statements are born through confrontations with heresy, and we are all subject to accusations of heresy in some parts of our theologies. I would go so far as to say there has never been someone (other than Jesus) who was not guilty of holding a heretical belief or engaging in a heretical practice at some point.


Another day, another... well certainly not dollar

So today was the last day of work for my wife. She is officially unemployed. A few months ago, the company she worked for filed bankruptcy, and we were left wondering what was going to happen. They put the company up for auction and basically two different companies began bidding. One, a smaller company in the same field but would benefit from the structure her company had to offer and the significant client base they would have gained. If this company won, they might have even offered her a job.

The second company is the largest company in this field in the world. Pretty much, everyone knew they were bidding in order to quash their competition.

Guess who won.

My wife was the marketing and promotions manager so she was personally responsible for all of their online advertising, navigation banners, artwork, etc. Within three hours of the closing, the website was shutdown. In three hours they "blow'd up" all of her work for the past year. Luckily we will be moving in 5 or 6 months anyway so she would have been looking for a job then. Plus she gets unemployment benefits whereas she wouldn't have if she had simply quit.

So, she will be home a lot for the next few months, which is nice.



I read an article today about a coach getting fired for winning 100-0 in a girls varsity basketball game. I have to say that, after reading the article, I agree with the decision. At first, I didn't know what I thought, but the coach's response is what turned me against him. He was completely unapologetic and didn't see anything wrong with running the score up so high.

This story is a little personal to me. I coached basketball. I even coached girl's basketball. One year, I was the coach of a 7th & 8th grade girls team. The year before we had all 8th graders who were all fairly experienced, so we did pretty well. The following year, those girls all moved up to the freshman team, and my team consisted of all 7th graders, most of whom had never really picked up a basketball. We had three weeks (twice a week) of practice before our first game, and I was teach them how to dribble the ball and shoot. The team we were to play first was one of the better teams in the league, made up of mostly 8th graders, their practices were consisting of strategy, defense, different offensive sets, and the like.

The day of the game was rough. By halftime, their coach realized that we were severely outmatched. The score was 53-0. He had already, by the middle of the second quarter, shifted his team into a 2-3 zone so that there wouldn't be as many steals, but my girls didn't know yet how to change directions while dribbling and they basically dribbled the ball right into the opposing team's hands. In the third quarter, the other coach told his girls to just stand there with their hands up. Still, we would lose the ball and they would take it down for a lay up. The final score was 86-1. Our one point came from a free throw that banked in so hard I thought the girl had thrown the ball baseball style at the backboard.

I did not (and do not) fault the other coach. He tried to lessen the margin of loss by putting in his substitutes, changing his strategy, and even putting restrictions on his players' scoring. But, if a middle school girl has a wide open shot to score, so that her parents can see, I would never begrudge her that. Our girls were a little upset, but I tried to encourage them by pointing out the fact that they had all just begun to play while the other team had been playing together for a while. I promised them that if they worked hard in practice, we would improve.

We never won a game that season. However, our last 5 games of the year went down to the wire. The girls' skills improved to the point where we could implement different offensive and defensive sets. They could finally put the ball in the basket. We had one game that went into double overtime against a team that had previously beat us by 20 points.

Oh, and the team we played first and lost to by 85, we played 2nd to last and lost by 3. Despite the losses, the improvement throughout that year was astounding and it was one of my favorite years coaching.

I thank that coach for having mercy on us in that first game. The score could have been much worse. But I also thank him for the harsh wake up call to the girls on my team that they had a long way to go. It lit a fire under them to really work hard in practice (and out of practice). Some of them went on to be very good players at the high school level. Sometimes we need to get our asses kicked, but the other side doesn't need to be a jerk about it (as it seems this particular coach from the article was).



I know everyone will be posting this today, but it should never become so commonplace that we forget the impact this man actually had.



I read a great quote today about how to go about making decisions about the future.

"I always recommend to people that they follow
the Ignatian principle. Regardless of what is sensible,
and regardless of what you think you 'ought' to do,
which of the courses ahead of you makes you feel alive,
makes your heart open wider, makes you feel hopeful
and as if the future is opening up not closing down?
That is the route you should go."

It is this thinking that allowed the Jesuits, despite great opposition even from within their own church, to spread throughout the world.

Now, don't get me wrong. Some of the methods of some Jesuits were appalling. The way some Jesuit missionaries viewed Native Americans was racist and not in line with the values to which I believe God calls us. That being said, they were willing to go where others were unwilling. Many were martyred. The film "The Mission" is a fantastic story about Jesuit missionaries (by the way, I agree with Jeremy Irons' character rather than Robert DeNiro, but I understand DeNiro's thinking).

As Kristy and I think about the future, we are scared, excited, apprehensive, and gun-ho (BTW, this is correct... it is not "gung-ho") all at the same time. Now it is time to practice some of the other principles put forth by Ignatius of Loyola. We must, listen and look for the leading from God. But the fact that our next steps stir so much emotion is a sign that we might be headed in the right direction.