Sunday, November 28, 2004
Being Brian McLaren
Last week pastor and author Brian McLaren spoke in one of my seminary classes about his book The Story We Find Ourselves In, a book our class had read earlier in the semester. What follows is not to be taken as a direct quote transcript of the conversation. Rather, imagine meeting some one and then days later drawing a picture based on your memory of the encounter. That's what this--me making sense of my piecemeal notes. If parts feel especially sound-bite-ish, it's because, well, that's the best I can do 10 days after the fact. I take all credit for creative embellishments...

He sat behind a lectern in front of a class of about seventy. His trim beard is still graying. The top of his head completely bare. The sleeves of his button-down shirt rolled back to reveal a charcoal undershirt. He wore blue jeans. Complete with the wire-rimmed glasses, he exuded a kind of rugged intellectualism that wouldn’t look out of place in a J.C. Crew catalogue. He spoke confidently, like this was his element, a fish in water, in a smooth voice perfect for radio. No agenda. What are some questions we have about Story We Find Ourselves In?

Are you Dan or are you Neo?

Hehe. Good question. I have a divided psyche and each of the characters represent a different voice in my head.

I most enjoy seeing God reflected in the beauty of process, or what some might call evolution. How encouraging that a molecular biologist came to faith through reading Story We Find Ourselves In.

When it comes to a discussion of Darwinian evolution, it’s risky to look for God in the gaps, that is, in the things we can’t explain. Instead, it’s better to look for God in those things we can explain.

Christianity failed in Europe in the last fifty years because it was so enmeshed in colonialism. When European colonialism was unmasked for all of its ugliness, Christianity was then indicted along with it. The parallel with modern American imperialism is startling. The possibility exists that Christianity will once again be similarly discredited.

People are not afraid of change. Rather, they are afraid of other people’s idea of change.

Somewhere along the line we have lost an eschatology of hope. Today the dominant American eschatology is one of abandonment and escape. If abandonment and escape are our end goal as Christians, what reason then do we have to engage with culture?

I wrote New Kind of Christian to an audience of alienated Christians, and my hope was that Story We Find Ourselves in would appeal to non-Christians. My hope is that non-Christians would be the end user of all we do.

When it comes to the fallout of the recent elections, my hope is that it leads us to a place of post-liberalism/conservatism. As it presently stands, both the political and religious worlds offer the two extremes of private justice without public justice on the conservative end and public justice without private justice on the liberal end. This is unacceptable. We must be able to embrace justice in both the private and public arenas. Private injustice piles into public injustice.

How do you deal with stereotypes against the Church?

I would disagree with you. I would say that most perceptions about the church in America are true.

On the other hand, I know exactly where you’re coming from. I worked for many years in upper education, and believe you me, it is no bastion of open-mindedness. We’re all just narrow-minded about our own different things. The early church suffered similar misunderstandings, misconceptions and stereotypes. It’s a part of our history.

Does evolution weaken the doctrine that man is made in the image of God?

According to the Genesis account, we’re made of dirt, and that’s not very flattering. We are made in the image of God and that’s what I want to affirm. Apes are not our ancestors; they are our cousins. Perhaps we need to develop a theology that acknowledges our close relationship with nature. St. Francis understood this relationship in his brother-moon-sister-sun view of creation.

Why are you leery of miracles in the book?

The church presently lives with a dualism between the natural and supernatural that just isn’t biblical. Signs and wonders—these are the finger of God in the Bible. God is always a player in the story. This is opposed to the naturalistic science that excludes God. God is involved in all of the natural stuff. Signs and wonders are very natural but they are filled with meaning from God. The semantics of “miracles” is from modernity. In postmodernity, among people raised in the new science, it is a far different world. Everything is about a pattern, and a pattern is information.

One of the problems with miracles I if you get one, you can never get enough. Thus, either God becomes your genie, or God has to say “no.” I think the film Bruce Almighty illustrates this principle perfectly. I believe in the intervention of God and miracles, but I also think that the idea of miracles on demand is weak. I plan to cover this in the next book The Last Word. And the Word After That.

Could you expand on your idea of the afterlife that is touched on in the book?

I believe in an eschatology of hope and an eschatology of realism. The story of creation is not finished. God finishes in six days, but creation is an ongoing process. Creation is not winding down, as Newtonian physics would tell us, but rather still winding up.

I believe more strongly than ever in judgment. Unfortunately, our current understanding of heaven and hell minimize judgment. Judgment is not the same as condemnation, which may not be the same as being sent to hell. The kingdom of God is not the same as heaven. The biblical view is not that heaven is the end goal. The end goal rather is resurrection. Revelation does not end with us going to heaven. Instead, the grand finale of the biblical story is the New Jerusalem coming to earth. The current idea of neo-platonic timeless, matterlessness is not biblical.

There is no concept of fire and brimstone hell in the Old Testament. This comes from the way of thinking of the Pharisees. The kingdom of God is the center of the gospel message, not whether you go to heaven or hell.

How has our view of the Bible changed through the years?

I grew up in a little-known sect of fundamentalism. It was a wonderful heritage where I learned the Bible. I was raised with a great love for the Bible. But I also loved science. My goal as a kid was to know the scientific names of all the animals. I had checked out all the library books by the seventh grade. Unfortunately, due to my background I was given the ultimatum, “either you believe in God, or you believe in atheism.” It was a very black and white world. It was a very rigid interpretation.

I think we’re in the midst of an incredible renaissance of biblical studies. In a bizarre way, my church thought we knew the Bible, but it was a systematic theology with the Bible crammed in. I have been preaching the Bible now for 22 years and I am more amazed by it than ever.

Consumerism is not the same as materialism. It’s more along the lines of, how much life have you gone through? It’s the difference between growth and wealth. Nothing is ever enough. This is the Trojan horse in American culture. When we talk about freedom, sneaking up behind it is the freedom to consume. And then, the church becomes just a purveyor of spiritual goods.

Is it better to embrace the established patterns of traditional denominations or to buck the system and begin new patterns of church?

We need both. They are symbiotic. One is innovative and the other imitative. New things need to be done with humility and the realization that one day they will become an established system. One concern I offer you: the Methodist system offers job security in exchange for your services. John Wesley would jump off his statue if he saw that today.

Most importantly, our focus must be on mission, not inner transformation. Transformation comes as a result of mission.

posted by Peter at 5:13 PM
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Saturday, November 27, 2004
Has it really been a full week? If it's been a week, it's been full.

I left Wilmore last Friday morning around 8:30 am. Can you believe the only trouble I had roadtrip-wise was the first half hour getting out of Wilmore and the final half hour getting into Tulsa? My Yahoo!Maps directions lead me through numerous Kentucky state roads through the middle of nowhere that looped me around and dropped me right back at the corner of Harrodsburg and Man o War. I could have gotten there without Yahoo! in half the time on my own, thank you very much.

And in Tulsa, they've changed all the signage for the Tulsa exits off of 44, and I missed it and wound up deep in Broken Arrow. I just wanted to be home by then. I pulled in around 8:00 pm. So, given stops for gasoline and eats plus the time change, it was about 12 hours.

And one of the biggest reasons I cannot again live in Oklahoma is this: Toll roads. The last 200 miles of my journey--from the MO/OK stateline to Norman--cost me $7.75. And for nearly eight bucks, that stretch of road is no fancier than the previous 700 miles. It takes the phrase "highway robbery" to greater heights.

Saturday I drove another two hours to Norman, OK, home of the illustrious Oklahoma Sooners, who happen to be about 14 million college students. My brother Jason, his wife Kelly and my sister Sarah are all nursing majors at Oklahoma University. We pal'ed around for a couple of days while they all tied up loose ends at school, taking tests and finishing papers.

Holidays with the Whites means one thing: Movies. Here's a rundown of movies watched since the beginning of the week to date: Napolean Dynamite. Trekkies. Zoolander. Pulp Fiction. Love Actually. Grave of the Fireflies. Edward Scissorhands. Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Finding Neverland. Am I missing anything? Oh, there were a couple episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm in there, too. And I have no idea why I haven't been able to start my homework, yet.

Yesterday was spent at Grandma and Grandpa White's place, just our family of six plus the three grandparents. And enough food for a small country. Tomorrow will be another banquet as the White House plays host to the Dawcett clan--Kelly's folks, three siblings, brother-in-law and cute-as-a-button nephew. Family time is exciting for me.

I'm so thankful to have a family that I look forward to seeing and spending time with after months apart. And I'm so thankful for my new community of friends that I already miss and am ready to see again. So much has happened in the last year, all I can do is stand in awe at how good our God is.

posted by Peter at 1:47 AM
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All I Want for Christmas
Because everybody and my mother has been asking:

Pedro's Xmas List 2004.

(hint)And in case you've forgotten the birthday is also in two weeks.(/hint)

posted by Peter at 1:34 AM
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Trust me, you're not likely to find the works of Nick Hornby at CBD or on the shelves of your local Christian bookstore. I love his portraits of people in pop culture. And it's for the above reasons that I feel compelled to share the following observation Hornby makes through the narrator of How to Be Good:
When I look at my sins (and if I think they're sins, then they are sins), I can see the appeal of born-again Christianity. I suspect that it's not the Christianity that is so alluring; it's the rebirth. Because who wouldn't wish to start all over again?

And all God's people said a resounding, "Amen!"

posted by Peter at 1:27 AM
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Klinefelter on community:
In the churches that I've been in where I've experienced the greatest level of connection and spiritual transformation, I was [with] people multiple times a week in multiple settings. This doesn't mean more meetings - far from it. It does mean being intentional. It means choosing to live in such a way that the people I church with are people I can see. (emphasis mine)

I concur. Read the whole thing, as Aaron appears to be just getting started. Bonus points for using the word 'church' as a verb.

Vincent Donovan hits a similar theme for me personally in his Christianity Rediscovered. If you've not read it, I highly recommend it.
The salvation of one's own soul, or self-sanctification, or self-perfection, or self-fulfillment may well be the goal of Buddhism or Greek philosophy or modern psychology. But it is not the goal of Christianity. For someone to embrace Christianity for the purpose of self-fulfillment or self-salvation is, I think, to betray or to misunderstand Christianity at its deepest level...

Christianity must be a force that moves outward, and a Christian community is basically in existence "for others." That is the whole meaning of a Christian community. A Christian community which spends all its resources on a building campaign for its own needs has long ago left Christianity high and dry on the banks. Or all its resources on an education program or youth program for that matter. A Christian community is in existence "for others," not for "its own" (79).

posted by Peter at 1:14 AM
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Friday, November 19, 2004
Soon as I pry myself from bed tomorrow I'll begin the 12-hour trek to see the fam' in Oklahoma for the holiday. Thought I'd make myself a mix CD for the roadtrip. Here's a sampling of the songs most recently stuck in my head:

1. Theme song from "Doctor Who"
2. Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie
3. Caspian Can Wait by The Velvet Teen
4. All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace by Sufjan Stevens
5. Cannonball by Damien Rice
6. Pink Moon by Nick Drake
7. The Wind by Cat Stevens
8. Such Great Heights by Iron & Wine
9. A Distorted Reality Is a Necessity to Be Free by Elliott Smith
10. Gloria by U2
11. Faithless, the Wonder Boy by Radiohead
12. Cosmic Dancer by T.Rex
13. Fairpoint Diary by Over the Rhine
14. Pretty (Ugly Before) by Elliott Smith
15. Driving Me Mad by Neil Finn
16. Big Brat by Phantom Planet
17. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by Jimi Hendrix
18. Sunshine of Your Love by Cream
19. I Will Follow by U2
20. Deliver Me by Sarah Brightman

In other news, Brian McLaren spoke in my Kingdom, Church and World class yesterday. I took good notes. And thorough. I think. Sometime over the break I hope I can craft them into somekind of coherent post here. It was good stuff.

posted by Peter at 1:58 AM
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Thursday, November 18, 2004
All Saints Photocollage
Aaron's been gracious to host the photo montage I put together for the gathering last Saturday night. Download to your heart's content.

Photo Montage from AllSaints Worship

video small (3.6 mb)
video big (9.6 mb)
by Peter White

posted by Peter at 5:03 PM
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Wednesday, November 17, 2004
My brain on a month of 4-hours sleep
I don't know about you, but I'm excited. Why, you ask? Because Alexis is blogging. Girl can write. And cook. I miss my Tuesday night dinners at the Colsons. Alexis gets extra props for having to raise this turkey.

So yesterday I dragged Jack and Jonathan along for a ride to Southgate House in Newport to see Pedro the Lion. Great show. Spacious, moody venue, and the first time I've seen Pedro with a keyboardist. Added some new texture and made tunes like "Magazine" possible. That's the one I haven't been able to get out of my head all day. Today my clothes are still radiating cigarette smoke.

Unfortunately, the crowd didn't quite get into the Q&A session as the last show I saw. One such exchange:

Girl in Balcony: Play "Options"!
[silence, as Pedro doesn't do requests]
Girl in Balcony: OPTIONS!!!!!
Girl on Floor: Shut up!
Pedro: So, are you guys going to fight about it?

Before the show as we waited in line outside the house, a group of maybe four fellas walks down the steps past us and across the street. The guy trailing in the back with a beard and dark hoodie brushed past me. Only the split second too late do I think to say, "Hey, Mr. Dave Bazan. How are you doing?"

Was a two hour drive up to Cincy and there's a stretch of US75 where you turn a bend, go over a hill and then, bam, big city skyline glowing in the night. Gorgeous. I think there was angelic voices humming in the background. I need to go back for exploring. Hey, Hebrew Union College has a PhD program for OT Biblical Studies, and it's in Cincinnati.

As it is, my brain is fried. I've got Church History test #2 out of 3 on Thursday with roundabout 200 pages yet to read. This is the stuff between Chalcedon and the dawn of the Middle Ages. Also got a detailed observation of Matthew 16:24-28 for inductive Bible study class due on Thursday. If I can just make it through Thursday...

Next week is "reading week", and that means no classes. Thus, I'll be driving the 12 hours to Tulsa on Friday for the next week and a half. I'll be calling it "sleeping week".

posted by Peter at 1:25 AM
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Tuesday, November 16, 2004
From In the Christian Spirit by Louis Evely:
To love God is to love the world. To love God passionately is to love the world passionately. To hope in God is to hope for the salvation of the world.

I often say to myself that, in our religion, God must feel very much alone: for is there anyone besides God who believes in the salvation of the world? God seeks among us sons and daughters who resemble him enough, who love the world enough that he could send them into the world to save it. (emphasis added)

posted by Peter at 11:19 PM
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Monday, November 15, 2004
All Saints: Better than a nice dream
If Vine and Branches is becoming family, then this was the weekend of meeting the extended family, the nutty uncles, tipsy aunts and wacky cousins. This was the regional gathering of community churches, of little churches being Big Church. Kinda like Voltron. Folks from Louisville, Cincinnati and Lexington all converged together. Met Aaron, Chris and the Communality gang, among others. Kyle showed up for a bit, too.

When I was maybe 6 or 7, my cousin Jacob--who is a year younger than I am--stepped on and snapped the head off my cherished Optimus Prime. I was pissed, and I cried like the little boy that I was. This certain family childhood flasback came to mind when on Saturday night in preparing all the techy things involved with projecting digital photos, Aaron plugged a wire into my laptop and suddenly it was silent. No sound from the computer. For a brief moment we were convinced my soundcard was fried. He broke my Optimus Prime. Yeah, this is just like family.

But thankfully for everyone involved, after a shutdown and restart everything now works again.

Alan has the the low down from the party Friday night, Saturday morning and the worship service in the evening. He's also got a nifty quicktime slideshow of the whole weekend.

I myself put together a slideshow of original photos for Saturday's art gallery to rave reviews. If you ask nicely maybe I'll email you a copy of the 9.5 MB wmv file. Yahoo says it's too big to store there.

For the curious, a good chunk of the shots were exteriors of First United Methodist Church in Tulsa, OK and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Soundtrack was Flugufrelsarinn by Sigur Ros.

posted by Peter at 3:09 AM
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Friday, November 12, 2004
How did I miss this?
Once upon a time I read every movie review printed in the Seattle Times. So how did I ever miss this movie?

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.

From the Amazon editorial review:
The second coming is upon us, and Jesus has returned to Earth. But before he can get down to the serious business of judging the living and the dead, he has to contend with an army of vampires that can walk in the daylight. Combining Kung-fu action with Biblical prophecy and a liberal dose of humor, the film teams the Savior with Mexican wrestling hero El Santos against mythological horrors and science gone mad and also manages to address contemporary sexual politics. And did we mention that it's a musical? This sure ain't Sunday school.

I'm speechless. I really am.

posted by Peter at 2:28 PM
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Thursday, November 11, 2004
From the latest "850 Words of Relevant" newsletter, a segment from an article "On the Barbarian Way" by Erwin McManus:

This is an important thing to know about a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. You can civilize them for a while, but in the end, God will unleash the untamed faith within them. One difference between lions and tigers I'm told is that lions are more easily domesticated than tigers. The reason is that lions hunt only for the purpose of eating. Hunting, for them, is motivated by hunger. Tigers are different. Tigers hunt for the sheer thrill of the chase. When your pleasure is the hunting and not just the eating, it is much more difficult to be domesticated. All you have to do is keep a lion fed, and you will most likely be safe. A tiger is always ready to involve you in a game of tag. You're it.

At the most primal level, this is supposed to be the difference between Christianity and all other world religions. Other religions hunt for the purpose of survival. They are desperately trying to appease God. All their efforts and energy are motivated by fear, guilt and the unsatisfied hunger of their soul. Genuine followers of Jesus Christ are more like tigers. The thrill is in the hunt. We have met God. We have tasted deeply of Him. We are not trapped in an endless effort to earn God's love and secure our place in the afterlife. We have found freedom in Jesus Christ, and in Him we are fully alive. Our faith is not motivated by a desperate effort to satisfy God, but the unspeakable pleasure of knowing Him. You can train a tiger, but you can't tame him. God never intended to tame us, but to unleash an untamed faith.

posted by Peter at 2:16 PM
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Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Incarnational Living
I'm thinking about incarnation living. At least that's what I'm calling it. Let me explain.

This begin a couple of weeks ago with an advertisement flyer:

Are you ready for worship beyond the walls of the church? Come and worship with us at the Dame... Worship that will awaken your soul

And the location will be a club. A bar. A live music venue. The kind I wouldn't invite Mom along to. I'm intrigued. I talk this up for two weeks. And so Sunday comes along and there are seven of us seminarians who make the trek downtown.

I've been asked numerous times since, "What'd you think? How'd it go?"

Ahem, um, they meant well.

What I felt I don't know how else to describe but as a dis-incarnational experience. I'm looking at the flyer again now:
...we have a growing relationship with a Lexington nightclub to hopefully have a weekly location... so that we might partner with local churches to reach college students and young adult outside the walls of the local church.

What I witnessed struck me more like a grown-up youth group than the indie rock concert I attended in a similar venue a few months back. What we watched--an admittedly sang along with--felt like a worship cover band. Darrell Evans. Chris Tomlin. The standards. Complete with Powerpoint presentation with song credits. Nothing quite like seeing "Darrell Evans, 1992" projected on the wall of a club.

I counted 37 total in attendance. That included the seven with me, the three other seminarians we met outside and the employees of the establishment. The place could probably pack 150-200 sweaty bodies. Just imagine 37 spaced out like the electrons on those junior high chemistry film strips of atoms. One of us came up with the image of eighth grade dance where everyone stands around awkwardly waiting for someone else to get into the music first.

On stage was a band of five, the stereotypical praise and worship band setup. There's a law--I'm guessing somewhere in 1 Thessalonians--that says the lead singer must play acoustic guitar, there must be a lead electric, rhythm electric, bass guitar and drum kit. And if you want to go out really trendy and edgy, you get a jimbe. And each song, instrumentally speaking, was played exactly the same.

Furthermore, it appeared as though ever trace of alcohol had been wiped clean from the place. The ornate faux-ivory tap handles had been removed. A red cloth covered the bar with bags of chips and bottled water. A sign read: "Doritos - 50 cents." It was comical, really. Gotta clean the place up for Jesus to show.

We tried to process all this on the way home.

"It was like somebody thought, hey, wouldn't it be a great idea to do worship in a bar?"

"Anybody know what they do in bars?"

"Yeah, we could totally reach those people and witness to people at the bar!"

We played this conversation out to its sad, sarcastic and cynical conclusion. I hope I'm not being a bad influence.

I can write and joke about this because I know for a painful fact I've done this myself. I've sat in on enough leadership meetings and planning forums to see that point when the Body falls more in love with the program than with the Christ and his Bride.

Do we think it will make us cool in the eyes of the world to bring our church service to a bar? Is it a sordid curiosity to see how the other half lives? Do we do it to justify our guilty conscience to "go out into all the world"? Is it even possible to do something like this out of love for a Beautiful Savior, for broken people and for good music?

What I saw missing Sunday--and what I see missing from much of the efforts of Christian evangelization in my world--is Incarnation. The best example of Incarnation I know is found in Phillipians 2. Paul describes Jesus, "who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (2:7, NIV).

I'm supposed to be reading Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent J. Donovan right now. It's after 2 am and I've a 100 pages to go with a page review due in 12 hours. What Donovan speaks about is right in line with this idea of Incarnation as he describes his experience attempting to express the Gospel to an East African tribe:
I had no right to disrupt this body of customs, of traditions. It was the way of salvation for these people, their way to God. It was one of the nations to whom we had to bring the gospel--bring the gospel to it as it was. In those lay their possibility for salvation" (24).

Incarnation means existing in two spheres simultaneously. Jesus embodied the completeness of God. He also embodied the frailty and vulnerability of a man. Good luck wrapping your mind around that paradox. Perhaps it's the logical conundrum that so vexes us and prevents from being both the children of God and human beings at the same time.

But Paul's immediate preceding words to his declaration of the double nature of Christ are, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." We are to be a Body Incarnate. We are to live in two worlds simultaneously. When Christ removed barrier between men and God, he also demolished the wall between secular and sacred. They are one and the same.

However, what I saw Sunday was a failure to speak the language. I saw the Christian sub-culture artificially transposed onto a foreign context. It was an ill-fitting suit. I try to imagine what such an event might look like if it were organized and composed by people who lived incarnationally, by people who spoke the language of both Jesus and the post-college indie rocker crowd. Could it be different? What would it look like?

And I try to imagine what I might look like if I truly lived with one foot firmly in the Body of Christ and one foot firmly in the world around me. What would I look like if I could live incarnationally?

posted by Peter at 1:17 AM
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Monday, November 08, 2004
This public service announcement is for my fellow central-Kentuckians.

Just when I didn't think any entertainment of the musical variety ever came to the midwest. Here are two.

First of all, Derek Webb will be playing at the Dame at Lexington. Tickets are $10, $12 at the door, which opens at 8. The Schuers will be opening.

I'm not all that familiar with Webb, other than that he used to play for Caedmon's Call, and I haven't listened to that since high school. But according to Grassroots:
But Christian art cannot and does not have anything to do with the content. Yet the only thing we feel okay defining as "Christian" art is the stuff that is the easiest to categorize. It is explicit. It is obvious. I think that is a cop-out. I think that is an easy road to take. Instead we should be equipping the people in our churches to discern good art, to determine what is beautiful, what is beneficial. We should be asking, 'Where can I find people fulfilling even unknowingly, the creative mandate that our great creator God has given to us? Where can I find that throughout all kinds of art and culture to determine what is beauty?

And that has my attention.

And if that's not enought, Monday Pedro the Lion will be performing with Starflyer 59 in Newport, KY at Southgate House. Tickets are $10; doors open at 8.

I saw Pedro on the Achilles Heel tour this summer, and it was so good I'm going back for seconds. Anyone interested in joining me, drop me a line. Tenatively, I'll say the Wilmore contingent will start our grand hike around 5:30.

I'm still debating the Webb show.

posted by Peter at 11:51 PM
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Adding gapingvoid to the creative links on the right.

As a disclaimer, it's not family friendly in the language department, if that's important to you.

But if you have a message you need to creatively communicate, I highly recommend it.

Because quality is NOT job one.

posted by Peter at 1:17 AM
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Saturday, November 06, 2004
Autumn wins me best
Autumn has finally taken Kentucky in a full embrace. Sweater weather is finally here to stay. I like it. I like it a lot. Whatever leaves would turn have already and crinkle and crackle underfoot. Maintenance is out in full force on campus today sweeping away any evidence that these autumnal leftovers ever existed. It is a fruitless endeavor. There are always more leaves. A bit like my schoolwork: There is always more.

What a beautiful day. And I’m sitting under a tree watching people pass by, rake leaves, walk their wiener dog as I sit here proofreading Greek tags. I’m blasting the Rushmore soundtrack as loud as the laptop speakers allow. It seems only appropriate on a fall day on such an academic grounds. The sun is so bright, though, I keep losing my mouse cursor. Oh well. Not everything can be perfect.

The writing process for is something like a mountainous knotted ball of twine. I tug a little on this piece at the top. Nothing. I tug a little on this bit at the bottom. Nothing. A little on this side. A little on that. Nowhere. Turn it over again. Let’s try here. Dead end. And then all of a sudden, a tug here and everything falls into place.

I had a five to six page paper due Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. on the relationship between personal and social holiness with integrity. By Tuesday evening I still had not started. So I am mulling over where to go with this, turning over the ball of twine, considering quotes, lecture materials, personal experience. A road to nowhere. By the time the epiphany moment finally hits, it is now 2 a.m. So, I feverishly tackle it for about half an hour before I realize I have two paths before me: either I shake off the oncoming sleep that my eyes are presently negotiating and plow through the wee morning hours or I call it a night, grab a couple of winks and set the alarm for early to wrap this sucker up. I opt for the latter option.

Alarm goes off at 5:30. That was three hours. I sleep walk through the motions of getting dressed, take the laptop to the library portico. I then realize it is really freaking cold at 5:30 in the dark. So, I rush inside and bundle myself in my coat. I am now huddled over the laptop, shivering in the frigid dawn air with the worst heartburn I have ever experienced. Curse that free cup of coffee at midnight. This is suddenly feeling like a very, very bad idea.

A wiser man than I once said you gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. I decide that this is the time to fold ‘em and I go back to bed.

I wake up at noon.

The paper got turned in the next day.

posted by Peter at 2:42 AM
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Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Case of the Mondays
Too much sleep.

[Not enough sleep.]

Too much work.

Too much thinking.

And that just puts me in a weird mood all day long. Blech.

Set iTunes to: Violent Femmes. Yeah, like that's going to make it all better. Permanent residence in the monastery ain't sounding too bad right about now. God, why can't I just be a monk? Realizing that I'm a vulnerable emotional creature and not a perfect, invincible superhero bothers me to no end. Today I feel like this penguin.

In the month of September, 250+ unique visitors stopped by this website. In October, that number more than doubled to surpass 600. There were 40 on Monday to read the brilliant post that had been sitting there since Thursday. This, I know, includes a growing contingency of people I interact with on a daily basis, and so this means that this little project here is no longer just about me. Editorial discernment is a skill I will need to further sharpen.

So Dr. Bauer informs us we may order the most expensive item on the menu. Dr. Bauer is a Biblical studies professor who invited five of us Biblical Studies MA guys out to lunch to discuss big-picture-vocational-Ph.d-planning kind of stuff. I was really looking forward to this. Everything on the lunch menu at Wah Mei is $3.95. Can't go wrong with General Tsao.

Now I'm the oddball of the group. I'm so out of my league. I'm the one guy whose degree is not in some sort of theology (it was English lit), and I'm the one guy not interested in New Testament studies (gimme the First Testament). The zinger of the conversation came when Dr. Bauer informed us that while everybody else at seminary gets to think about spiritual formation first and grades second, not so we the chosen few MA in Biblical Studies. The competition for the top Ph.d programs is out of sight and GPA is everything. That's just what I wanted to hear at this time that I feel like a juggler with one ball more than he's ever juggled with before.

Bottom line of the conversation: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Emory and Duke are the top divinity schools for Biblical studies. When I ask about specifically OT programs, he mentions Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, but he's thing is NT, so I have further research to do. Game plan now is to start looking at all these programs and see what their requirements are--whether that's a 60-hour MA, 90-hour MA or double MA. At 9 hours a semester this seminary thing could take awhile.

Visited another new church on Sunday morning. They meet in a movie theater. This was their first Sunday with two services instead of just one, and they were quite excited about it. Reminded me in some ways of Clear River back in Virginia. In others, not so much. Such as, the meet-and-greet part of the service where people shake your hand, telling you how glad they are that you're here, and yet neglect to even ask your name or who you are or why you might be in their church. I mean, what's with that? And it was more than one person I experienced that with, too.

Some links to check out...

I dragged some friends Saturday night to go see The Bourne Supremacy for a buck-50. I had been invited over to Alan's, and I should have taken my crew there as I missed out on the thrilling conversation on ecclesiastical legitimacy. Okay, so maybe the posse wouldn't have gotten into it, and I feel less like I missed out now thanks to Alan's epic thought process:
It [apostolic succession] seems to have sprung from fear, and a view of episcopal ministry that was more about teaching right doctrines than lovingly shepherding people. I think I see a problem developing that still has a home in our midst.

Kyle reinforces my idea that there are no weirder, unhealthy singles than Christian singles and that we all need to rethink our semantics on the issue yesterday:
While I am not in a romanitic or sexual relationship with anyone, I am not "single" in any way that is meaningful to me, and I am certainly not "alone." For that reason, I wouldn't touch "singles ministry" with a ten foot pole. It's really a "lonely persons" ministry or a matchmaker gathering, because people who don't fit in those catagories probably don't see the need for such a thing.

And Gordon has another essay that makes me wish I was a better writer:
See, I think Christianity is like a human poem, written over thousands of years by people who have a sense that there is something more important for us than just waking up every day and going about our business. I’m one of those people, I’m afraid. I know that makes me seem a little foolish to you, but maybe you have room in your life for one goofy friend, huh?

There, I'm feeling better.

Yeah, I'll go to bed now.

posted by Peter at 1:39 AM
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