Monday, December 31, 2007

PM Worship Service

I submit for your approval a sermon I preached yesterday for New Year's. I wouldn't necessarily call it a homerun, but I feel safe saying that I thought it was an extra-base hit. Its not too late to challenge your church for the New Year. If there's anything in there that helps, or even if you just want to preach from that script, have at it.

I want to ask this question: where did PM worship service come from? Who was the first guy to say, "One worship service on Sunday isn't enough. We need two."

I love Mike Cope's joke about PM worship service. He calls the AM service the "Varsity" service, and PM the "JV" edition. Varsity comes out in the morning; they have the nicer uniforms & the bigger audience. JV comes out at night. To most folks, they care about the Varsity team, but they could care less about JV. I even recognize that most of my better sermons are the ones I preach Sunday AM.

I fail to understand why someone once felt the need & decided for the church to come together, worship, leave, then come together again, and rehearse from the same script what we did on Sunday morning. If its the Lord's Supper people need an extra chance to take, we could have a dedicated Lord's Supper Service. However, I've just gotta say that the church's antiquated system of PM worship service is redundant (and so not attractive), inconvenient, and (frankly) ineffective on many levels.

I love the idea of coming together on Sunday for a 3-4 hour block of time... having bible study, having worship, sharing a meal, and then going home. Or having worship Sunday AM & having cell groups in homes at night. Those ideas make sense. Can we say the same about the idea of PM worship service?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My New Drug

I've been meeting weekly with a group of local friends in ministry for encouragement & accountability for over a year now at Starbucks. I'm not a coffee drinker, though. I tried a couple frappuccino's, and they were ok but didn't really blow me away. For over a year, I've been lobbying the guys to pick another place to meet because I just don't really care for the Starbucks experience.

Starbucks Logo
The charming Starbucks logo with the enchanting Siren of Greek Myth
While I don't care for coffee, I am a sweet tea connoisseur. As we all do, I keep mental notes of the pluses & minuses of local restaurants, and one of the more important factors that I keep track of is "the Sweet Tea test." Is good? Is it bad? Is it too sweet? Is it not sweet enough? Is it not fresh? Is it watered down? If I'm with a group who is deciding between two different restaurants, I'll often vote for the one that doesn't have bad sweet tea.

So while at one of our ministry gatherings at Starbucks a little over a month ago, I was thirsty, and I thought I'd search the menu one more time. Specifically, I hoped I could get a sweet tea. To my delight, I noticed that they had shaken iced teas. But there was only green tea, red tea, orange tea, and black tea. The sweet tea that I normally drink is golden brown-colored, so I asked the guy behind the counter, "Do you guys have regular sweet tea?" He told me that that was black tea, and I nearly jumped for joy. "I want one," I declared. "Large!" Amused, he replied, "That would be 'Venti.'" It was $2.24, and I handed the man a twenty-dollar bill. "$17.76 is your change, sir." Ridiculously expensive, but with that total, at least I feel strangely patriotic. And then, it was so good that while we were there for a couple hours, I indulged with two refills.

Starbucks Logo
I love me some Tea
So, since that day, my new drug is the Starbucks Venti Tazo® Black Shaken Iced Tea Sweetened. It is SO good! It may be the best sweet tea ever. Whenever an errand takes me to that part of town, I drop by & order TWO! I do that because I usually suck down the first one because I enjoy it so much. And the second tea is the one that I savor. And then I spend the next few hours going to the bathroom, but its WORTH IT! I think that there are three key elements that make this tea great. First, it is fresh tea. I can make fresh tea at home, and its almost as good, but it takes half an hour. Second, the sweetener. I don't know what it is... I don't want to know what it is... it is euphoric... its probably a narcotic. Third, the most elemental ingredient, water. The water is soft, not hard, and it hits the pallet just right.

O Starbucks, just like the logo on the side of your cups, you are a seductress.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Links

The Essentials
If you read nothing else, click on these links

I don't say this lightly: if you minister to people, you need to read this entire article. Matt Dabbs, given his considerable psychological experience, is exempt. ;) The Zoloft Dispensation: Pastoring in the Meds Age.

Not sure if this news event registers on many of your radar screens, but former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation. If a major presidential candidate who was running against an incumbent was assassinated in U.S. 11 days before elections, I can't begin to imagine the damage that would do to our republic, much less their fragile one! As per the play-book, the 2008 Presidential Candidates picked up the political football & ran with it.

The Frivolous
Some guy in Indiana paid for a new pickup truck with loose change. Me, I'm one of those annoying "Use your change as you go" guys who is digging in his pocket for another nickel & dime to pay the cashier in exact change while you stand behind me just waiting to make your order at Starbucks.

From the "What in the WORLD?!?" Department, Man nails Santa to a cross in protest.

Have you found Jesus yet? All you need is coordinates...

A bunch of priests brawl in Bethlehem. Even though we are not Greek Orthodox or Armenian, the un-churched links us with them. I hate news like this, because events like this don't help the effort for evangelism.

Interesting article from CNN/SI about how some guy got to go one-on-one with Obama. He appears to be a very balanced person.

Lots of talk by college football analysts & commentators about how revolutionary the new spread offenses are with mobile quarterbacks. Well, the next generation football offense is already here, and its laboratory is Alabama High School Football. It's called the A-11 offense, for "All 11" players being eligible to touch the ball. What a mess to try to defend. Here's a video of the offense in action.

College Football Players rack up during bowl season. Sound systems, Nintendo Wii's -- these guys get taken care of.

You thought you had a crappy Christmas...

Some kids develop late, and others figure it out early. This little girl early has a head start on the world...

With apologies to ESPN's Bill Simmons (a.k.a. The Sports Guy) & his links column, this is the Best Wedding First Dance Ever...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Perfect Storm = Bad Form

A side note before I allow you to take a dip into my cynicism...

Anyone who is dissatisfied with the lack of "spirituality" in this blog lately may want to sample some of the sermons that I've begun posting on-line at The link is a button (looks like this --><--) on the side panel that is listed under "Elsewhere," which is a collection of links to my other virtual presences on this tangled world wide web that we weave.

Since I have the weekly opportunity to share Christian messages from Scripture every Sunday, I typically exhaust most of my theological reflections at that time. Given that fact, I'm simply not as motivated to opine spiritual opinions in this forum for all 2 of my readers. That does not necessarily mean that this blog will be completely void of Christianity. Simply, I'm serving notice for each of you in case you're wondering why a preacher's blog isn't more preachery.

So, if getting a glimpse of what I share on Sunday's is your cup of tea, feel free to help yourself in that regard by checking out what I post there at

As evidenced by a previous blog entry, I tend to be particular, and sometimes ornery, about how we use the English language. Has anyone else seen the new IBM commercial where a group of co-workers go to some business conference & during one of the sessions end up playing business buzzword bingo? Its hilarious. It's a play on how there are certain buzzwords & phrases that are over-used. They are words that are often peppered into a speech, and the speaker intends for the buzzword to have gravity & carry deep meaning. However, a word's effect is lessened each time it is used, thus "buzzwords" end up becoming annoying utterances that effectively make the speaker appear shallow.

I'm sure that some of my regular Sunday listeners could come up with a good list of words to play buzzword bingo with. When it comes to contemporary churches, it seems that you aren't a hip church unless you have one of the following words in your title: Fellowship, Grace, or Community. And if your church is named "Grace Community Fellowship," then you're probably at the hippest church in town.

Well, the well-worn phrase that has drawn my ire lately is "perfect storm." It is everywhere. Whenever folks intend to describe a confluence of events that returns a negative result, they say, "Its a perfect storm." From the situation in Iraq to the current political climate to the crisis in sports concerning a lack of loyalty between coaches and institutions /organizations, it seems that I hear or read it more than I go to the bathroom. We're really wearing it out, America. I urge readers everywhere to limit how often you use this phrase.

Anyone else wish to share any buzzwords or phrases that grate against their language sensibilities?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The 12 Pains of Christmas

Well, it's nearly over, but I thought I'd share my favorite Christmas parody of all-time. I believe it was originally recorded by Bob Rivers. Anyway, enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Smoke and Mirrors

Well, good for Clemens. Being interviewed by Mike Wallace is the closest thing to testifying under oath or submitting to a polygraph. Only it is NOT those things. This is undoubtedly a dog & pony show to pull a confidence scam on the public, trying to convince folks that he is telling the truth & McNamee is not. Are we supposed to believe that McNamee told the truth under oath about Andy Pettitte, but LIED about Roger Clemens? Are we supposed to believe that he NATURALLY stayed remarkably healthier in his later years than he did in his earlier years? What a joke!

As someone on an internet forum posted about a former incompetent University of Alabama official, I believe my sentiments regarding Roger Clemens may be summed up by the lyrics of San Quentin by the venerable Johnny Cash:

(Roger Clemens), may you rot and burn in hell.
May your (records) fall and may I live to tell.
May all the world forget you ever stood.
And may all the world regret you did no good.

Well, maybe hell is too strong. May he rot & burn in baseball purgatory. How's that?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

REVIEW: The Bourne Redundancy

The Bourne Ultimatum

Just Watched:
The Bourne Ultimatum

My Rating:
4 Stars

This one was very good.

Ultimatum returns to the familiar feel of Identity in this film. From now on, when you look up "thrill-ride" in the dictionary, there will be a scaled down picture of the movie poster for this film (just like the one above) next to the definition. Most good action movies take you for a ride and keep you in a constant state of suspense because you don't know what's going to happen right around the corner. The poor movies don't do this: the movement is plodding, the plots are set-up cheaply & are wholly predictable, and the entire experience is just stale. Not so here. Remember how fun Identity was the first time when you could hardly remember where you had just been, could barely figure out where you were at the time, and had no idea where you were going??.... but you couldn't wait to get there! This movie does that, too. If it is an experience you seek, this is your film.

Now, I'm about to get really critical. I may be splitting hairs here, but that is what separates the magnificent works of art from the "very good" films.

Scoping His Prey
Bourne, Bourne -- he's our man! Why don't we send him to Afghanistan!
The first thing that holds me back from letting loose the coveted "iii 5-star rating" is the same thing that held back Identity: QUESTIONS. We are left with more questions than answers. Hopefully without giving too much away... why is Julia Stiles' character so drawn to Bourne's? Why was Bourne so willing to forget his former identity in order that he might be conditioned to become Jason Bourne? Could Jason Bourne kill both James Bond & Jack Bauer? The artist, I'm sure, would say that this is merely true to life: our's is an existence that asks many questions & answers few of them. Poppycock, I say! Art imitates culture, sure, but I also look to art to make a point, portray a view, answer a question. Supremacy didn't do this. Minus ½ a star.

Another redundant feature of this movie was our final view of the character of Jason Bourne as a tragic figure who is asked to sacrifice too much for the cause. I really didn't enjoy this theme the first time I saw Matt Damon portray it in The Good Shepherd. I really didn't care to see him emphasize the point again. Apparently our culture is supposed to be one where no one gives more than society's arbitrary standard of self-sacrifice allows. (As an aside, perhaps the scandal of the cross in contemporary culture is the very simple notion of self-sacrifice. I'll be meditating on this, & I'll probably be preaching on it soon, as well).

Finally, and once again from the Redundant Department of Redundancy, the architects of this film reach back to the trusty & reliable first in the trilogy for a theme: identity. In a deleted scene, before a Senate committee in a hearing, the director of the CIA explains the primacy of ethics in espionage relative to the USA keeping its identity as a noble nation. In the film, Jason Bourne relentlessly chases clues toward the end of discovering his identity. Other agents furiously chase other clues toward the end of discovering exactly what the CIA really is at the tip of the sword. The entire trilogy is somewhat of a morality play about how it is what you do in life that defines you. Wait a minute! That was Batman Begins! Minus another ½ a star for lack of imagination & theme infringement.

Matt Damon even joked about the repetitive nature of this film franchise, joking as a guest on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" that the fourth movie would have to be named "The Bourne Redundancy." Some clever people have already filmed & released the trailer for the fourth Bourne film.

Four stars. Not great, but very good. It is certainly a must-see.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Links

A couple of blogs that I frequent often post a series of links that are of general interest. Since I've picked my blogging habits back up, I've stumbled upon a few things that I reckon some of you might be interested in as well. So, without further delay & in no particularly reasoned order, I present you with "The Links."

A powerful Christmas Message today from Preacher Mike Cope. No one better presents the "Already, But Not Yet" element of the Christian Faith than Preacher Mike.

The Dabbinator and friends ruminate upon how Christians should deal with retirement in contemporary, 21st century America.

I must give credit to Jordan on this one. The Shawshank Redemption came to life this week.

The New Batman Trailer. Ooooohh!

MSNBC has determined the Most Peculiar Stories of 2007. When a man having sex with a dead deer rings in only at number FIVE, you know it has to be a good list.

The Tribune Company owns the Chicago Cubs, and also Wrigley Field. The Tribune Company recently underwent an ownership change, and the new owner wants to sell naming rights to Wrigley Field.

Lots of talk following MLB's Mitchell Report about records, awards, & legacies, and the revoking of some of these for users of performance-enhancing substances. I tend to agree with Mr. Araton of the NY Times when he argues that meeting out justice for those times is too complex for surgical procedures (e.g. stripping someone of their Cy Young Award(s), wiping records or placing asterisks in the record book, etc.), and that we can do little more than acknowledge that the entire era is permanently stained. An excerpt:

Like it or not, the era is what it is. It is naïve to the point of absurd to believe it can be partly revised or rewritten to meet some arbitrary standard of tolerance. Based on what we know, it stands to reason that on a percentage basis in every way possible, cheats won, even when they squared off.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle looks through the veneer of the public statements issued by MLB players through their lawyers and sees half-truths & misinformation. It is completely transparent how these statements are merely an attempt to redeem their public image.

Tim Sullivan notes that Roger Clemens' former trainer & accuser told his tale under oath. If we're to believe the tale that Clemens spun, Sullivan says that The Rocket should argue his innocence under oath, as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hall of Fame Dad

Go grab the kleenex's. Don't say that I didn't warn you...

"You were never too tired to play catch. On your days off you help build the Little League field. You always came to watch me play. You were a Hall of Fame Dad. I wish I could share this moment with you.
Your son Pat"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blog Version 2.0

The Governator
That's right, boys & girls. iii is back.
What up, gangsta's. Glad to be back. During this football season, I spent my blogging time thinking through the Crimson Tide's issues out loud on an Alabama football forum. I earned a reputation as sort of the "forum pastor." They look to me for theological wisdom related to ebb & flow of Alabama football. Its cute. SO, anyways, at least between now & fantasy baseball season, I'll probably be spending my extra internet time here.

In the last few days, I've made some upgrades to the blog & I thought I'd fill you in on each of them.

  • I added a few cool links to the "Other Links" section of the left panel. If you're not familiar with sites like Craigslist or Political Fact Check, you must check them out.

  • I've added buttons that syndicate my blog to RSS readers. Personally, I highly recommend Bloglines. One of my frustrations with blogging in the past was clicking on everybody's link just to check to see if there was anything new. Now, if any new content is posted, I am alerted immediately via the Bloglines notifier.

    Anyway, I love my new buttons. They feel like scout badges, and they inflate me with a false sense of importance. (G)

  • Under the "Elsewhere" heading, I posted links to other places on the web where I have a presence: my MySpace page, Sitemeter statistics for this blog, my future record on Xbox Live, my sermons on SermonCentral, my Pandora internet radio station that is personalized to my musical preferences, and my Netflix movie choices. Feel free to connect with me or get to know me, or stalk me for that matter, through these links.


My favorite Conan clip EVER! I remember seeing another skit like this, with different scenarios, and it ran for like 3 or 4 minutes. Every time that guitarist did his thing, the funnier it got. And, of course, Conan has the whole late night "I'm so delirious anything is funny right now" thing going for him. But I still find this laugh out loud hilarious.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Sin of Acha... Israel

The story of the sin of Achan has been one that has always disturbed my sensibilities on many levels. Really, I still have more questions than I do answers.

  • Here, you have a nation that shows such faith in God as to send only a few thousand men to conquer Ai, yet He didn't bother to warn them at all about the licking they were about to receive at the hands of their enemies & the loss of 36 lives.

  • Further, it says in verse 1 that "the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things" -- because of the actions of ONE man the whole is judged unfaithful.
  • In verse 10, we're left with the notion that God doesn't want Joshua to pray any longer about an event that had to be extremely disturbing to the Israelites. When coupled with another passage, I get the distinct impression that God gets tired of our blubbering after a while. There comes a point where supplication is rendered void & action is required. Sure, that makes sense, but given all the other eccentricities of this passage it is still unsettling on some level.

  • Once Israel narrows it down to Achan, he confesses that it was indeed him. Hey, at least he didn't pull a Rafael Palmeiro or a Roger Clemens. Or pull a Pete Rose & try to benefit off his "confession," if you can call it that after YEARS of categorical denials only to finally tell the truth by releasing a book to make money off of it (... what a sleazy guy!). Achan is a man & at the least owns up to his sin. And for this, he is stoned.

  • And not only do they stone Achan, but his family with him. And we have no idea whether or not they were even complicit in Achan's deed. Or even knew about it!

I was listening to some Randy Harris from the Tulsa Workshop today, and he took on this passage. He expressed experiencing many of the same troubles that I listed above. Usually, when I think this passage or preach it, I talk about sin. And I talk about how serious God is about sin, holiness, etc. But that's not what Randy addressed.

Randy said that our main problem with this passage that we've never expressed is how sickeningly community-oriented the Israelites were... at least, to us. We embrace such an exorbitant individualism and it is such an epidemic in our culture that the implications of living in community appear almost perverse to us. The therapists among us might even call it "unhealthy." There is spectrum of dependence vs. independence, and we must seek to strike the "healthy balance" of interdependence. At least, that's what I was taught in Christian Home at HU.

God holds the entire nation responsible for the actions of one man. ONE. We don't take responsibility for the deficiencies around us, do we? MLB Commissioner Bud Selig refused to apologize last week for his culpability. A culture of rampant illegal drug usage spirals out of control on his watch, but it was the fault of the individuals who made those decisions. No one has even begun to lay blame at the feet of simple fans like me, even though I continue to purchase apparel, subscribe to each season, and play fantasy baseball. I continue to support a dirty sport, and have not done my part to hold the leaders & participants of the sport accountable for their misdeeds. No, rather, fans like me are either too apathetic to care or too cynical to think anything can be done, so we settle for a synthetic product.

How about more life applicable examples? Abilene Christian University recently apologized to African-Americans for how that institution & its supporting churches treated them in generations past. Why did they do that? Scarcely anyone that is a part of that institution today played a role in that. But at least on this issue, ACU gets it, because they are promoting a sense of community that even shares the responsibility of the misdeeds of their predecessors.

Randy Harris asked if we take responsibility for what's been happening in Sudan? Or all the turmoil of the Middle East, or previously, Eastern Europe? Because we all constitute "the nations."

This contemporary Evangelical business about our "personal relationship with God" that is buoyed by hymns with lyrics like "My God and I walk through the meadow's hue" & "He walks with me & He talks with me"... it's a little off-center. We would do well to re-examine the sense of community promoted within Scripture & the implications that holds for ourselves and what we teach.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Power 12

I could sound all snooty & say that I am rating the top twelve college football teams of the 2007 season after the dust has settled from all the wild weekends we had this season. Truth is, I simply took a break from blogging & didn't care to update all of you on my opinions of college football teams.

So without further ado, the 2007 Pre-Bowl Power 12...

2.) Ohio State
3.) LSU
4.) Oklahoma
5.) Southern Cal
6.) Georgia
7.) West Virginia
8.) Missouri
9.) Kansas
10.) Virginia Tech
11.) Florida
12.) Illinois

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Did A-Rod Lie to Katie Couric?

Ever seen the movie, The Negotiator? It stars Samuel L. Jackson as a City Police Hostage Negotiator who is framed & takes hostages for himself. Thriller!

Anyway, in that movie, Samuel L. Jackson's character interviews a man who he thinks aided in framing him, and, in the process of interrogating him, accuses him of lying:

Turn Your Volume WAY Up

If you couldn't make out what he said, in essence, Samuel L. Jackson's character calls the guy out on a lie. The way he does this is by watching his eye movements when he answers questions. The way you can tell is this: if the subject of a question shifts his eyes to his left, he is accessing the portion of his brain reserved for memory. Thus, he is telling the truth. If the subject shifts his eyes to his right, he is accessing the portion of his brain for creativity. Thus, he is making up what he says.

This website confirms the information from that movie scene. It further breaks down the eye movements into 6 directions, but the basic right/left distinction remains. Also, this phenomenon is BACKWARDS (e.g. eyes to the subject's right for memory & eyes to the subject's left for lying) for people who are left-handed.

And now to our feature presentation: Alex Rodriguez. On Thursday, mere moments after the release of George Mitchell's Report on Performance Enhancing Drug Use in Major League Baseball, Katie Couric interviewed A-Rod for a piece that will air tonight on the CBS Weekly News Magazine, 60 Minutes. Take a look at the clip that is linked for you below and, in particular, pay attention to the movement of A-Rod's eyes when he answers Katie's question regarding whether he had ever been tempted to take any performance enhancing substances.

So what do you think? Was A-Rod, who bats & throws right-handed, accessing the section of his brain where creativity takes place before he answered that question? Was A-Rod lying?

Another plausible theory goes like this... A-Rod is very concerned with his reputation. He wants people to like him, almost too much. Almost to a fault. He's giving an interview that will go a long way toward forming people's opinions of him, especially of people who don't watch ESPN, listen to sports talk radio, or follow sports closely. You could almost see him asking himself in that moment, "What answer should I give?" Or, "What's the best way I could answer this so that people don't hate me?" Thus, if A-Rod was really thinking such thoughts, he wasn't so much concerned with concealing past steroid use or desires as much as he was giving an answer that made people like him or look up to him.

I know it's a stretch, but this admittedly-biased baseball fan is gonna chalk this one up as circumstantial evidence of lying about PED use. Almost everyone that slime-ball Jose Canseco has named has been outed as a user or corroborated as an alleged user by other accounts. His accusations look more & more credible as time passes and more evidence surfaces. And he continues to be adamant that A-Rod is, or was, a user. And in the court of public opinion, sometimes accusations & circumstantial evidence is enough. We're not trying the man for murder. We're merely judging his athleticism, Hall of Fame credentials, and place within history. And in the absence of a perfect system to catch those who seek to gain an unfair advantage, we fans are forced to form our own opinions. I've formed mine. What is your's?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Why College Football is King

Written by a sports writer named Travis Reier:

The Best Thing About College Football?

Is that it's not pro football. At least, it wasn't as of midnight, when Missouri and West Virginia returned to their pumpkin statuses. But there is good news on the horizon for the ever-growing faction of college football fans who seemingly want to NFL-ize the Saturday game. With club seats, luxury suites and multi-million-dollar head coaches with Power Ball buyouts becoming a permanent part of the landscape, major college football is taking on an uncanny resemblance to the no-personality horsecrap we see on Sundays.

So I must be opposed to a playoff, right? Not necessarily. An eight-team format would allow the regular season to retain a shred of integrity while also identifying the nation‘s top team. Anything more than that, though, would be another ill-advised step “forward” for the game. A 16 (or more)-team format would admit three-loss teams to the party, watering down the importance of September games in the process.

See, I like that Georgia fans tonight are mourning a home loss to South Carolina from nearly three months ago all over again. Same for USC (Stanford loss). And while they may not realize it right now, the fear of losing even one game and the haunting consequences of a week two defeat is why we travel to Nashville to watch a game involving Vanderbilt instead of the Titans.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Don't Call it a Comeback...

Felt the urge to share my latest "mix tape," or burned CD. There is an art to this. You don't just throw the songs together. Theme, mood, & timing are all factors.

I call this one That Fresh Feeling.

Format: Song Title by Artist on Album

1.) Fresh Feeling by Eels on Souljacker
2.) Don't Look Back In Anger by Oasis on (What's the Story) Morning Glory?
3.) A Little More (electric guitar version) by Jennifer Knapp on Listen Louder
4.) How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin on Arriving
5.) Adoration by Newsboys on Adoration
6.) Love Heals Your Heart by Third Day on Wherever You Are
7.) What's Left of the Flag by Flogging Molly on Drunken Lullabies
8.) Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident) by John Michael Montgomery on his self-titled album
9.) Into the Day by Bebo Norman on Between the Dreaming and the Coming True
10.) Hymn to the Fallen (From "Saving Private Ryan") by John Williams on The Music of John Williams
11.) Lovestoned (CLEAN version) by Justin Timberlake on FutureSex/LoveSounds
12.) Wake Up by Arcade Fire on Funeral
13.) It Ain't Over 'Til Its Over by Lenny Kravitz on Mama Said
14.) Hallelujah by Newsboys on Adoration
15.) Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash on With His Hot and Blue Guitar
16.) Unwell by Matchbox 20 on More Than You Think You Are
17.) Lonely Man by Audio Adrenaline on Lift

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Wedding Sermon

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to perform the wedding ceremony for my dear friend from high school, Ann. I found this sermon on-line & had to use it. I also preached a modified version the following Sunday morning. Both were a success. Feel free to borrow...

Well. Here you are, Eric and Ann, all dressed in your wedding finery. You are a very attractive couple on this most significant day of your lives, a couple I like very much -- each of you separately, and as a couple. Behind my affection for you is my respect: you’ve done a lot of work to prepare yourselves for this wedding day. And here we are. Your friends & family. Your wedding party. Yourselves – all dressed up in a nice suit & in a beautiful wedding dress. It took a little longer than normal to get dressed up for this special moment…

But when you take off your wedding clothes, what are you going to put on?

What are you guys thinking about? Get your minds out of the gutter!

For the last several months, your thoughts have been consumed with preparing for this day. But, you know, a marriage is more than just the wedding day. And Paul, in Colossians 3, has some suggestions for a marriage wardrobe. And he introduces them by saying “clothe yourselves” with these virtues. These aren't just simple actions that you do once & then toss away. Clothe yourselves with these qualities, Paul says.

So how does one dress for success in a marriage? What are you going to wear to keep your marriage warm in the face of a cold, harsh world?

First, put on Compassion. Literally, compassion means "a heart of pity." Compassion is an inner attitude you each have toward the other — a fullness of tender caring for and about the other’s vulnerabilities and strengths which will overflow into how you treat each other, in public & in private.

On top of compassion, put on Kindness. Now there’s an article of clothing that gets to be in short supply in a marriage sometimes! When you are clothed with kindness you will be seeking the other’s good as you deal with each others’ weaknesses and sore spots.

Then there’s another item of clothing that does a marriage good: Humility. If ever there is an arena where pride and the need to be right and the struggle for power occur, it’s in a marriage. Lack of humility leads to every kind of struggle. Humility recognizes the other’s equal status, recognizing that each has needs, plans, hopes, & values which are just as important as your own.

Gentleness is another worthy garment for a marriage. Gentleness is the garment of the self-controlled person. Badgering, Nagging, Berating, Harassing, Heckling, Hounding, Complaining, and even a lot of teasing –- these are not gentleness. When gentleness is absent, your partner has to put on the helmet of wariness & the breastplate of fearfulness just to survive. And how can you be intimate with someone in armor? When you put on gentleness, the other can take off the self-defensive armor. And when that happens, trust can thrive & intimacy can reside. Every marriage could use several garments of gentleness...

Now, here’s an absolutely necessary article of clothing for a marriage: Patience. Each of you has lived long enough to realize that you can’t expect perfection from each other. Each of you will discover, if you haven’t already, that the other has the capacity to drive you crazy! It doesn’t matter what the issue is: marriage takes patience.

Another essential garment for a marriage is a spirit of Forbearance and Forgiveness. There’s a lot that needs to be endured in a marriage, a lot that requires forbearance. It is a spirit of forgiveness that makes difficult things endurable, maybe even erases them. Nowhere more than in marriage will you have to say, "I’m sorry." Don’t say it to get out of a tight spot. Say it because you know that in no other relationship is the other so vulnerable, so easily hurt. And when the other has asked forgiveness, grant it.

If compassion is marriage’s inner, garment, and if kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness are its active-wear shirts and pants and skirts and socks, then love is the overcoat. "On top of all these things," Paul says, "put on love." Love keeps a marriage warm.

Love is not merely an emotion. Love as an emotion can wear thin and threadbare when feelings ebb. Love, as the overcoat that keeps a marriage warm, is made up of two things, both of which must be there for marriage to endure: commitment and caring. It’s the solid ground on which your marriage rests. "No matter what, I will be there for you. No matter what others may think - they may forget you, lose confidence in you, or turn their backs upon you - but I will not.” That’s the commitment you make with your vows. But what good is commitment without caring? Caring says, "You’re more than just another obligation in my life. You are precious to me. I value you above all others."

These clothes Paul invites us to put on are not made of natural fibers. They are woven of spiritual stuff. Try as you might in your own power to create them, you need God to create them. For instance, human nature says, "I’ll do my fair share but no more." Or, "She deserved it." Or, "It’s his turn to give in." Compassion, humility, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, love -- these don’t come naturally. They are gifts God gives us when we turn to Him.

It is a cold world out there. A world so biter & harsh that wants to steal the warmth of your love away. But do as Paul says:

"Therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm a Blogging Slacker

Wow. It's been weeks. I guess when people show up on a regular basis to listen to what you have to say, there's a sense in which I feel a little less urgency to share what I have to say in this other forum. Anyway. Whatever.

I still wanna blog some stuff about morality. I'll do it whenever I feel like it, I guess. It'll happen when it happens.

So don't delete me from your favorites, but don't hold your breath either. ;-) I'll be back...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Day to be Remembered

16And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.

Acts 22:16 will always hold a special place in my heart from now on.

Lately, things have been going well with my sister, Katie. She was invited to be a part of a church softball team at the Jenks Avenue Church of Christ, and has loved it. She's made a lot of good friends, primary among those being Rachael C. She had started coming just to Wednesday night Bible Studies... then expanded to coming to bi-monthly Young Adult Bible Study Devotionals... then found out about the Tuesday morning Ladies Bible Study... and has even started coming on Sunday's. She'd even started talking about baptism.

Well, Tuesday, she was sitting in the Ladies Bible Study, and the Lord spoke to her through Scripture. As she read Acts 22:16 with the group, she posed the question to herself. "What AM I waiting for?" So tonight, with Mom able to drive down for the occasion, she came forward during the invitation extended by Daniel C. I made some personal comments before the church before I took her confession, saying that among many testimonies that Katie's baptism was a testimony to prayer & perseverance. (And for those of you reading with fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, spouses, or children who haven't yet put on Christ, don't give up hope.) I then took her confession, she went back to change & I put on those hip-looking waders, and I immersed her into Christ.

Luke shares Paul's conversion account 3 times in the book of Acts. I'm so appreciative now that he included verse 16 when he was penning chapter 22.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Take Me To Your Leader

We aren't a pushpin on the map yet, but we will be soon! Since September 1st, 2006, Justin Sailor has been traveling around the nation in an effort to experience the culture of all 50 states. He is sponsored by JEEP (apparently it's pretty easy, he says -- he had a connection with a professor, wrote a proposal, and -BOOM- JEEP lends him a brand-new 2007 vehicle to trek around the country in).

Justin stayed in my Dad's RV last night & is also there tonight. Tomorrow he will be moving on to the Tampa/St. Pete area. And from there Key West. And beyond that, you'll have to check out his web site to follow his adventures. Today, he chilled with my sister & I some, went to check out Panama City Beach, attended a Bible Study at the Cherry residence, and watched part of a women's softball game.

Check out his adventures at <>.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don Imus & Duke Lacrosse

So apparently Don Imus' sin warrants the loss of his contracts with MSNBC (television) & CBS (radio syndication). What he said was hurtful and reckless, but I think the scapegoat approach by the two networks is short-sighted. In 6 months, Imus in the Morning will simply move to Sirius or XM where there are no FCC regulations. He will get his money there & he will have learned no lesson.

So since the NACCP & other bleeding heart liberals are so concerned with how one gray-haired white man irresponsibly used his words, what will they do next? Will they go after Mike Nifong, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and others who made it their business to do a public smere campaign on what a state Attorney General calls three innocent young men. Here's a group of students who will probably still carry the stain of these allegations throughout their professional careers.

Is there a double standard in our society regarding who is allowed to be reckless with their words & who is not?

Friday, April 06, 2007

You Got Owned

Spent half the week in the hospital looking over my mother & catching up on sleep in the roll-away bed from having to rush her to the ER at midnight Sunday night. And the ER was 2 hours away -- it was a challenge making that drive. I promise that the serious blogging resumes next week. And that doesn't mean sports & YouTube clips I promise. :)

But for now, I found this on an internet forum. For Bob...

Florida President unsure of what to do with Ohio State

Gainesville Sun Staff Writer

April 4, 2007

GAINESVILLE – In the wake of Florida's unprecedented dual championship victories over Ohio State, the University finds itself with a unique and somewhat perplexing problem:

What to do with Ohio State now that Florida owns it.

According to little known and never before used "Clause 121" of the NCAA charter, when a University defeats another member University for two consecutive national championship games by "convincing margins", the defeated University becomes the sole property of the victor.

University of Florida President J. Bernard "Bernie" Machen readily admits that he was unaware of Clause 121, and is unsure of what to do with Ohio State. "They have, what is it, over 54,000 students? Plus, it's in Columbus, Ohio. This is all very inconvenient."

The University of Florida Board of Trustees is holding an emergency meeting this Friday to deal with the unprecedented situation. According to sources on the Board, initial ideas include:

Sell It – The easiest move the Board might make is simply to sell Ohio State. However, due to the University's size, and its location in the relatively depressed real estate market of central Ohio, it may be difficult to find a willing buyer. "We are looking into this option," Machen says. "We have contacted the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio to see if they need more land."

Keep It – This option has several difficulties, but may be the only one if Florida is unable to get a buyer for fair market value. Primary among the difficulties is the large student body population of Ohio State. However, sources on the Board did say since OSU's student population is near Florida's 50,000, there may be a situation where Ohio State students could be lent to Florida students on a semester by semester basis as personal valets.

Florida junior Kevin Young thinks the valet idea is just swell. "Everyone should have their own pet Buckeye," said Young. "It would be like having your own personal fraternity pledge. I think the idea rocks!"

Were Florida to keep Ohio State, issues of whether to allow OSU to keep their current team name and mascot, as well as whether to allow them to continue to play in the Big Ten, would have to be resolved. Says Machen, "I think we could reach some sort agreement that would allow them to keep Brutus Buckeye and play in the Big 10. After all, what would we do – move them to the SEC? They would only get hurt. Since they are our wards now, we could never allow that."

The prospect also exists that Florida would have dissolve Ohio State athletics. In that case, the issue of what to do with the student athletes is uncertain. Florida football coach Urban Meyer, when approached with the prospect of having to absorb Ohio State's football team, paused for a moment and said, "I suppose they could be a scout team for our scout team. They really aren't fast enough for anything else."

Finally, there is one other idea University officials have floated, and that is simply to donate Ohio State to charity. "As I understand it, thousands of Hurricane Katrina refuges are still displaced. We could give OSU to the Katrina Relief Fund, and allow people to relocate there," Machen said. "That could be the win-win situation everyone is looking for."

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Picks Guaranteed to Go Wrong

I've been thinking a lot about morality & ethics lately. I have some thoughts to share and I'll be fleshing them out here in the coming weeks. So don't give up on me & tune away just yet.

But for now, I've got to get my MLB predictions out before the season begins.

AL East

94-68 x-New York Yankees
90-72 y-Boston Red Sox
80-82 Toronto Blue Jays
75-87 Baltimore Orioles
65-97 Tampa Bay Devil Rays

AL Central

93-69 x-Detroit Tigers
88-74 Cleveland Indians
85-77 Chicago White Sox
82-80 Minnesota Twins
60-102 Kansas City Royals

AL West

94-68 x-Los Angeles Angels
84-78 Oakland Athletics
83-79 Texas Rangers
70-92 Seattle Mariners

NL East

92-70 x-New York Mets
87-75 Philadelphia Phillies
86-76 Atlanta Braves
72-90 Florida Marlins
59-103 Washington Nationals

NL Central

90-72 x-Milwaukee Brewers
89-73 y-St. Louis Cardinals
83-79 Houston Astros
82-80 Chicago Cubs
77-85 Cincinnati Reds
65-97 Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West

90-72 x-San Diego Padres
82-80 Colorado Rockies
80-82 San Francisco Giants
78-84 Arizona Diamondbacks
75-87 Los Angeles Dodgers

Too many games to be played for me to try to predict how it will play out in October. But I will say (go ahead & call me a homer...) that I like the Red Sox in a short series. ;-)

AL Cy Young:
Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins

Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians

AL Rookie of the Year:
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox

NL Cy Young:
Ben Sheets, Milwaukee Brewers

Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

NL Rookie of the Year:
Josh Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Random Predictions:

  • Barry Bonds hits 30+ homeruns and thus breaks Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755.

  • Bobby Cox hangs 'em up as Atlanta Braves manager at the end of this season when the new cheap ownership allows John Smoltz & Andruw Jones to walk. Smoltz signs with the Detroit Tigers & Andruw signs with the Boston Red Sox.

  • Bobby's successor will be Joe Torre. Joe returns to Atlanta where he has formerly played & managed. He's not tired of baseball; just tired of the unreal Yankee expectations. He's attracted to Atlanta by his history with the franchise, the first-class front office headed by John Schuerholz, and the opportunity to teach young ballplayers. Another first-round failure in the playoffs marks Joe's final season in pinstripes.

  • This is NOT A-Rod's final season in pinstripes.

  • Torre's successor in the Bronx will be the overwhelmingly popular Joe Girardi.

  • Roger Clemens announces that he is returning to the Yankees around Memorial Day. Sometime around the middle of September, he will pull up with some kind of nagging injury and announce his retirement from Major League Baseball FOR GOOD. No one believes him, but 2008 comes and goes & Clemens fattens up and it becomes apparent that his retirement actually is for real. Three years following the retirement, some crafty investigative reporter will release a blockbuster, best-selling tell-all book that reveals an organized MLB cover-up of Clemens' 2007 positive test for steroids. This reporter chronicles how MLB didn't want another black eye & convinced Clemens to finally retire and avoid public embarassment. Forget the controversy over Mark McGwire; "The Rocket" becomes the new poster child for steroids in baseball as America finally wakes up to realize how more pitchers than hitters are users.

Okay, I know that my last prediction was very random, and very randomly detailed. But if it happens, I'll look like a GENIUS, no?

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Take on the Madness

My 5/12 Upset:

Long Beach State (over Tennessee)

My Final Four:

Ohio State

My Champ:

Florida disappoints the Buckeyes again

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ruthless Basketball Fans

Basketball fans are the worst. Well, I take that back. Sox & Yankees fans are the worst. I'm talking about the real hardcore fans who wear the profanity-laden shirts. But after that, it's college basketball fans.

Case in point. This used to be my favorite basketball poster. While trying to praise their favorite player, J.J. Redick, these Duke fans get their sign punked at a Maryland game:


That was my favorite sign. That is, until I saw a video of a sign from when Florida played at LSU a week or so ago. The sign was making fun of Joakim Noah, the Florida basketball player who is sitting in the middle in this picture:

What did the sign say? "Was Noah this UGLY in the Bible?"

Friday, March 02, 2007

He Shoots, He Scorcese's!

The DepartedJust Watched:
The Departed

My Rating:
4½ Stars

After The Departed racked up at the Oscars this past Sunday night (winning for "Best Picture" & "Best Director"), I decided I needed to view this movie. I'm so glad I did.

A fore-warning. The language used in the film is pretty filthy. If you don't have a stomach for that, steer clear. But what struck me even worse was the violence. Not a small amount of blood-splattering scenes. This is a guy who found Passion of the Christ too be a little too much for me on a silver screen. Departed didn't reach that level, but it's not a long way off. But, when you're talking about a mob movie, you expect not a little of both of these.

As I just stated, the plot revolves around the American/Irish Mob in Boston, Mass. The mob boss is played by Jack Nicholson. Superb job. Scorcese originally wanted DeNiro to play this role, but it wouldn't have been the same. DeNiro always appears more reserved & calculated in his roles. Nicholson brings that "Here's Johnny!" & Joker vibe that scares the mess out of you. And that's exactly what his role was meant to do: scare the mess out of you. Nicholson at his best.

Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio Delivers
And I am forced to admit that this film marks, at least for me, the emergence of one of the new great actors of our generation. I'll have to admit that I had not understood the buzz until now. All I'd seen of this "pretty boy" was his work in Titanic & Catch Me If You Can, and he seemed like one of those sell-out guys. You know: one of those kinds of actors with the pretty face who attracts the ladies & plays some kind of unrealistic, sweater-wearing dream boy. Plus, this was his third film with Scorcese, and he had already also done a film with Spielberg. "What a spoiled brat," I thought. Even his name sounded fake. Nevertheless, Leonardo DiCaprio truly is emerging as a "Must-See" marquee name. Much like Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, & Tom-Cruise-used-to-be, I see the phrase "a DiCaprio movie" entering our vernacular (another guy who is sneaking his way into this realm: Christian Bale). This guy is GOOD in this movie. GOOD! He goes toe-to-toe with every other actor in this film & nails it in every scene. If this were Gymnastics, I'd give him a 10. I don't know HOW he wasn't nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for THIS role. He was nominated instead for Blood Diamond. As much as I enjoyed him in Departed, guess which movie just got bumped to the top of my Netflix Queue? ;-D I cannot be effusive enough about how much I enjoyed DiCaprio in this movie. And I'm so surprised that that last sentence in no way sounds gay anymore.

If there is anyone who disappointed in this flick, I'd say it was Matt Damon. And it's not really Damon's fault. It's just that his character was written to be more stale & static, and in the movies I've seen him in recently he is also relatively stale & static. And he's surrounded by a group of characters in this story who are all so distinctive & well-played that it's almost like he was setup to fail in a sense. Don't get the wrong impression: he does his job right. He carries the ball & doesn't drop it. But for a guy who is closer to 40 than he is 30, I'm getting a little tired of seeing him in roles where he also plays himself in flashbacks at the age-range of 18-25. It's not that he doesn't pull it off; it's just that this is what he plays in a lot of his movies lately. Still, Damon is on par with DiCaprio: one of those guys who's emerging as the best in the business.

The guy who stole the show for me was Mark Wahlberg. Marky Mark! He gets probably 40% of the film's curse words. But he steals every scene he is in. It is a SHAM that he was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He was phenomenal as well.

All of the other supporting actors & actresses -- Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Mark Rolston (Bogs from Shawshank), etc. -- also delivered in their roles.

This film left me wanting more Scorcese. People of my generation don't know him as well because he really sort of peaked in the 80's, but he's apparently one of the best directors of our generation. Scorcese finally getting his Best Director Oscar was like Elway winning the Super Bowl or Earnhardt finally winning the Daytona 500. So I've added some of his movies to my Queue, like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, & Casino.

The real thematic idea that the story studies & tinkers with is that of identity. You have a mob guy as a mole in the police department. And you have a State police officer under-cover as a gang member. And both struggle with their double-lives. You can even see this theme being developed from the line that Nicholson delivers in the trailer:

When I was your age they used to say you could become cops or criminals. What I'm saying to you is this... When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?

What is it that separates the bad guy from the good guy? Each character sells himself to his enemy so well that it's hard to remember who the bad guy is sometimes. But each character deals with self-doubt about who they really are on the inside after doing the things they have done. It's really a fun thing to watch.

The only reason this film didn't receive 5 stars by me is the ending. There's a little twist at the end that didn't need to be there. I didn't buy it, anyway. Nevertheless, I've decided to not let a strange ending spoil my enjoyment of the totality of this film experience. It was suspenseful. It was exciting. It was a great thrill ride. I loved this movie & I think you will, too.

Other films I've seen since Christmas via Netflix:

16 Blocks: 3½ Stars. I liked. You've never seen Bruce Willis like this.

Cars: 4 Stars. I don't care who you are -- that's funny right there.

The Usual Suspects: 3 stars. It was aight.

One Night with the King: 2 stars. Hollywood fouled up the ending.

Man of the Year: 1 star. God-awful film. And I love Robin Williams.

Desperado: 2 stars. Eh...

Once Upon a Time in Mexico: 2 stars. [Sigh...]

The Boondock Saints: 2 stars. Cool concept, but it doesn't deliver.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Can Righteousness be a Flaw?

I appreciate art with a purpose. Whether it's a song that drives home a point or a TV show or movie that champions some ideal, I find great fulfillment in purposeful art. You can see it in my lists of favorite movies. The Shawshank Redemption tells us, in the words of Andy Dufresne, that "hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." Dead Poets Society urges us all to Seize the Day -- "gather ye rosebuds while ye may." I think it goes back to my days in campus ministry with Gators for Christ. We used to have movie devo's & talk about how whatever film we watched related some spiritual truth or lie.

One of my very favorite movies that's not on my Profile's list is the movie Training Day. In the film, Officer Jake Hoyt (portrayed by Ethan Hawke) has one day to prove to Narcotics Detective Alonzo Harris (portrayed by Denzel Washington) that he can cut it as a NARC working under Harris. Hoyt becomes extremely troubled when he sees how many corners Alonzo Harris cuts. However, you can't argue with Harris' "success." In the movie, Harris says:

"Today's a training day, Officer Hoyt. Show you around, give you a taste of the business. I got 38 cases pending trial, 63 in active investigations, another 250 on the log I can't clear. I supervise five officers. That's five different personalities. Five sets of problems. You can be number six if you act now. But I ain't holding no hands, okay? I ain't baby-sitting. You got today and today only to show me who and what you're made of. You don't like narcotics, get the ---- out of my car. Go get you a nice, (w)ussy desk job, chasing bad checks or something, you hear me?"

(As you can see, I'd recommend that you catch it on cable, where it's edited it out, rather than checking out the copy at your local Blockbuster.)

As the movie progresses, you are given the stark impression that it's Harris & people of his ilk that make a real difference on the streets of L.A. The normal officers in "uni's" who roll around in their "black & white's" can't make a dent in this kind of gang sub-culture. But these guys who have just a little dirt under their fingernails, they're cleaning things up. The fundamental proverb of the entire movie is this line delivered by Alonzo Harris when he's trying to sell Jake Hoyt on his team's methods: "To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf."

Sounds so good it's almost Bible, isn't it?! "God helps those who help themselves." Almost Bible.

My sister & I have been watching another police show via TV on DVD. It's a show about an anti-hero cop who leads a team of "unclean" cops who are trying to, you guessed it, clean up the streets of L.A. They use unorthodox tactics, take a little money on the side, & compromise a little for the main character's sense of the greater good.

We were watching the commentary of one of the shows the other night when they were talking about the flaws of each of the characters on the show. The main character's flaw is clearly his penchant for "compromise" -- he goes overboard & pays for it in spades. And in the end, some justice is done, but you're left with a sense that it's incomplete.

However, there is one detective on the show who always stands up for what's right -- even at one point when it goes against the entire system. The cops in her station, the Chief of Police, District Attorney's Office -- everybody is against her, but she will do the right thing no matter what. And she pays for it in spades. In the end, some justice is done, but you're left with a sense that it's incomplete.

And in the commentary, they're left with the conclusion that this detective's flaw must be her righteousness, or self-righteousness. And they leave the question hanging out there: Can Righteousness be a Flaw?

And as I think of this in relation to ministry, it's an important question. Could it be that in all of our attempts to be shaped like Jesus & formed in his likeness we lose a sense of humanity and, in turn, ability to reach humanity? Is it possible for us to become too pure to reach out & touch the impure? In our fulfillment, joy, & wholeness, do we lose our ability to relate to those who are empty, sad, & broken?

Where do we go for Scriptural reference? Do we look at Ephesians 5:3 where Paul says among us there is not even to be a hint of immorality? Or do we look at Jesus, who hung out with prostitutes & was named with the wine bibbers? I mean, really... how is it you can be called "a friend of sinners" & NOT have any dirt under your finger-nails?

I ask these questions of Scripture. And the more & more I've asked this question of the Bible, the more Scripture comes back with a resoundingly definitive & overwhelmingly unequivocal response:

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

No darkness AT ALL! 1st John 1 doesn't leave any room for grey. How was Jesus able to spend most of his time around people who had spent most of their time learning how to debase themselves? Some would say divine nature. I say baloney. I chalk it up to strength of will & self-control. The man was a man. Yes, He was God, but he was a man, too. It took all his discipline, but he resisted & maintained his integrity in the face of the devil's temptations.

And Jesus had the opportunity for short-cuts, but he didn't take them. Luke 4 gives us a peak into how Satan presented one short-cut for Jesus:

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

"Come on, Jesus. Saddle up, partner! You want to start a Kingdom? Let's do it right now -- you & me! Think about it, Messiah:  no more hatred or war; no more hunger or famine; no more poverty; no more disease; no more corruption. The perfect Kingdom here on Earth. You can ease the pains of society. You can perfect what you had a hand in creating in the first place. You can make it right, Jesus. If only you will compromise just this once: worship me. Bow down to me, and all you want is your's!! You won't even have to go to a bloody cross!"

Don't you know that had to be tempting. But God's Kingdom would not be ushered in that way. It would be a Kingdom with one King, and Jesus maintained it's integrity.

If we're going to be about Kingdom business, it has to be done God's way. Compromise is the devil's way. Satan's always encouraging us to get a little dirt under our fingernails. Even tricks us into rationalizing that it will make us better servants of the King:  gaining carnal knowledge of the enemy ... we're doing covert spiritual espionage here! But that rationalization is merely a cover-up for doing whatever it is we know we shouldn't be doing.

Righteousness is no flaw. There's no such thing as being "TOO good." It's a lie, propogated by Satan no doubt, to keep us from pursuing Jesus as radically as we could be. Vigilante righteousness is no righteousness at all. If you really want to be vigilant for something:

"Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the wellspring of life."
Proverbs 4:23

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Netflix & Young Adult Ministries

I recently signed up for Netflix. It's a pretty cool deal. If any of the rest of you out there subscribe, let me know and I'll add you to my friends list. We can compare movies and stuff.

I was recently reading an article about the conversion of a young single woman named Dawn. The last few paragraphs struck me because they completely subverted my paradigm for how to grow a group of Christians.

I think of Christian growth & development in various ways, but one way I enjoy thinking of it is via Rick Warren's Purpose Driven model. It's a good model, to be sure. However, perhaps it's a little too compartmentalized. Because after coming to Christ, Warren would merely have you focus on "fellowship." However, Dawn's advice was altogether different:

If church leaders truly want to reach out to women and men who are looking for an alternative to that lifestyle, said Eden, they must realize that the last thing single adults need is a singles ministry that turns "your church basement into a sort of 'Animal House' with crosses."

What congregations should do is rally single adults around worship, prayer, books, the arts and service to others, she said. Then friendships and relationships can develop out of activities that strengthen the faith of those that choose to participate.

"You really don't have to dumb things down for us," said Eden. "There are plenty of ways for single adults to get less church if that is what they really want. Why not talk to some of your young adults and ask them what they really want. They may want more church -- more faith -- not less."

Real fellowship happens not just when people gather together, but when people of character & like values get together for a purpose. As a minister sometimes I feel the need to filter out some of the tougher elements of faith when trying to bring folks to Christ or maturity in Christ. "Fail people's expectations at a rate they can handle," as is said by one leadership guru. But this article has me thinking that such an approach may be wrong-headed.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I know this is turning more into "Philip's Favorite Videos" rather than actual words, but THIS is great! A Washington State fan takes out a blow-up version of Aubie the Auburn Tiger:

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Un-Beattitudes

You won't find these in Matthew 5. You can call it the 21st Century American's Cultural Values:

Blessed are the wealthy, for they will never be found in need.

Blessed are those in the majority, for they will get their way.

Blessed are the well-armed and powerful, because they will win the war.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for power, prestige, prominence, and position, because they will be on top at the end.

Blessed are the complainers, because by-golly they will get EXACTLY what they desire.

Blessed are the ones who wear the right sweater and the right shoes and drive the right car, because they have it all together.

Blessed are the ambitious, for they will go far.

Blessed are you when you have a good time and when the road is smooth and easy, because that is what life is all about.

(I give credit to Jason Ashlock for these. Don't know if he got them somewhere else, but I originally heard him present these in a Harding Chapel Talk)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

No Super Bowl for you!

The Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis, IN was planning on hosting a Super Bowl bash this Sunday evening. They planned on showing the game on a wall-projector. That is until the NFL got wind of the plans & told the church to cancel the party. Dang. And I thought the NFL wanted as many people as possible to watch the game...

Anyways, I'm always interested what different churches do with "the Super Bowl quandry." Super Bowl Sunday has grown into a national holiday of sorts, right in line after Halloween, Thanksgiving, & Christmas. People celebrate it. Folks throw parties for it. Even people who NEVER watch football are intrigued & attracted by this game. If for nothing else, some folks watch for the commercials.

Some churches march on with their Sunday Night "J.V." worship service, trying to be oblivious to the event the rest of the world has it's eyes on. Other churches cancel servies entirely to allow their members to watch the game in their own homes. And still other churches try to incorporate Super Bowl & Church together, usually in some veiled attempt at evangelism or introduction to the church body.

For those who read my blog, I'm interested if you have a strong opinion on the matter. And what will your church's answer be this Sunday with the Super Bowl quandry? And if you're not a believer, what do you think about churches that have Super Bowl parties? Would you be more inclined to visit a church like that? Or does it turn you off to that kind of church? And why?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A God Touch

Ever have one of those moments or experiences where you sense that God was speaking directly to you? I always appreciate those. Even if it's just a traffic jam & I get the sensation that God is saying, "Slow down," I appreciate those.

I got one tonight. We were worshipping before Bible Study, and I was leading worship. I love leading worship... mainly because I get to pick the songs, and so I know that (from my perspective) we won't be singing any duds. (G)

(Control Freak. Remember?)

Anyways, even though I was pleased to be leading singing, I had arrived at church in one of my morose moods. I get these from time to time. Not all the time, or even most of the time. Just every once in a while. It's like I'm saying to the world, "I'm a loner. I'm mysterious. I'm unique. I'm complex. Tonight I'll be morose & you won't be able to figure me out." In all honesty, it's really a bit punk-ish.

So anyhow, all of that is going on in the background when I come to the song I picked to lead before opening prayer: "This is my Father's World." Man, what a great song. There are a few songs in this world that bring me to a state of tranquility. That Acappella song, "Peace." Yeah. You know what I'm talking about! Also, whenever I hear Jennifer Knapp sing "A Little More" ... ahhhhhhhh, I just want to melt. Good warm fuzzy feelings of tranquility. "This is My Father's World" is one of those songs. "Yessssssss ... it's God's world. He's in control. He's faithful. Things are working out for good. Ahhhhhhh ...."

So I'm leading the song. Worshipping God. Still in my punky morose mood. When we come to the last half of the final verse:

This is my Father's World
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: Let the Heavens Ring!
God Reigns: Let earth be glad!

That was like a nice little swift kick in the rear from God. "Come on, Philip. Quit being a punk. You've got a lot to be joyful about. How about you quit being so narcisistic, focusing on your own feelings, and maybe do a little ministry tonight? Huh? How about we do a little bit of that? Would that be alright with you?"


I appreciated that.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Quick Hits

  • You know how couples have nicknames? Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie = "Brangelina." Ben Affleck & Jennier Garner = "Bennifer."

    My favorite new couple nickname? Tom Brady & Gisele Bündchen = "Brady Bunch." BTW, what a NICE HAUL for Brady. Gisele has gotta be one of the top 3 hottest women on the planet, famous or not. I really don't feel bad for the guy losing to Manning last weekend.

  • Does anyone actually watch the X-Games? And do they have drug tests? Because I think you've probably gotta actually be ON something to perform some of those tricks. Do they turn you away if you are drug free?

  • After spending a week with my Mom, sometimes I don't know what is worse: the Cancer or the Chemo. BTW, what an oxymoron: Chemo + therapy.

  • File this away fantasy nerds: if there's one thing that Mike Shula knows, it's how to coach Quarterbacks. The two QB's he coached at Alabama broke all the school records for completions, attempts, touchdowns, & yards (for career & single season). David Garrard & Byron Leftwich will benefit from Shula's hiring.

  • If you're a baseball fan & have not seen For Love of the Game, you've missed a solid flick. Not so much a movie about baseball as it is a movie about life. Go back & rent it.

  • I've decided I'm rooting for the Colts in the Super Bowl in spite of Manning. I love Tony Dungy. He represents everything that is right with humanity. Just a great, great person.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Earth Metaphors

Most of you know that I love Christian music. And if you don't know me personally, you perhaps could at least tell by the title of my blog (which is also the title of a Bebo Norman song.

But this past Sunday night we were singing a hymn I've sung dozens of times before: Won't it be Wonderful There. At the end of the first verse there is a curious metaphor for what Earth is (or will be): "The Story-Land." One day, we're all going to be in Heaven & Earth will be a place we tell stories about. The Story-land. What an interesting thought ...

I've noticed some other metaphors before in Contemporary Christian Music. There was a group named LaRue whose one-hit-wonder was a nice little diddy called "Waiting Room." The premise of the song is that our life on Earth is like an extended wait in a doctor's waiting room. When you go to the doctor, the waiting room is not all their is. Eventually, you make it in, and the waiting room is but a passing thought. It was but a momentary inconvenience.

There's another metaphor that is in one of my favorite Bebo Norman songs. It's a eulogistic song about the death of a woman who was close to him. The name of the song is "Rita." Bebo takes a sort of "Fallen Earth" view of the world with a chorus that says, "It was not your time ... that's a useless line ... a fallen world ... took your life." And at the end of his song, he's committing his beloved Rita to God:

So take her tender to Your table
Take her from this killing floor
To taste the water that is forever
Let her be thirsty no more

I find that line "killing floor" fascinating. It's an interesting description of a place where so many bad things happen. While life and the Earth itself are gifts from God, our human nature has tarnished so much of life and has allowed death to prevail. Killing Floor.

Anybody have any other creative sayings or thoughts that lend a different perspective on how we look at our existence on this side of life?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Saluting an Accomplishment

On an Alabama Football message board that I frequently read, there was a post following the Pats/Colts NFL game tonight that said, "Congrats Tony and Lovie -- first african american HC's to superbowl. very fitting." It was a salute to Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy & Chicago Bears skipper Lovie Smith. Both are African-Americans. Both will share the honor of being the first African-American head coaches to lead their teams into the Super Bowl.

The responses to this thread were varied. Some echo'd the adulatory sentiment. Others questioned what the big deal was. And thus, as often happens on messsage boards, a debate ensued. And since I have friends who are weary of "reverse-discrimination" and don't seem to share this congratulatory sensibility, I feel the need to write.

"What's the big deal? Plenty of white coaches have made the Super Bowl. What's so special about two black coaches?"

I understand the sentiment. I really do. And I'm tempted to feel that way, too. I know it seems like any time a black man takes any kind of small step, it's celebrated. For people of my generation it's hard to understand why a colored man gets praise for something lots of white people have already done.

The reason for that is simple: it's ignorance. For a great deal of 18-35 year-old white males, discrimination is not something we experienced growing up. We've heard about it. We've read it about it history books. Now I'm not saying that racism & profiling still don't exist today, but it's not as publicly exposed as it was 30-to-40-to-50 years ago. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was making speeches. When the Ku Klux Klan was an accepted way of southern life. When "coon" was part of the everyday vernacular.

And for those of us who do not share that perspective, we will never know what it was like to grow up in Tony Dungy's or Lovie Smith's shoes. I really don't know what that kind of discrimination is like. Those guys grew up in a generation where opportunities & priveleges were hardly open. They had to work harder & do it twice as good as the next guy because of the color of their skin.

Whether or not it's admitted, there is a stigma against black coaches. It was accepted as common thought as recently as 25 years ago that African-Americans could not make good quarterbacks. They simply didn't have the mental capacity to handle the demands of the position. And it was people like Doug Williams (the first black QB to play in & win the Super Bowl) and Warren Moon (the first black QB to enter the NFL Hall of Fame) who changed that perception. The same perception existed & STILL exists for African-American head coaches. They aren't smart enough to handle the demands of being a head coach. They're not as good at X's & O's. They're not as smart at the psychology of motivating players. They can't handle the public relations demands of dealing with the media day in & day out.

And now Tony Dungy & Lovie Smith have proven those critics wrong. They climbed the coaching ladder -- a steeper & more demanding ladder than their white counterparts were made to climb. I'm not even beginning to mention some of the familial & financial hardships that often come from arising out of the African-American culture. And after jumping through all those hoops, finally they have made it to the pinnacle of sports achievement: The Super Bowl. As a white man, I will never understood what it took to get there.

But, there's another part of this that's difficult for people of my demographic to swallow. As was written last Friday by Bill Simmons,'s "The Sports Guy:"

Now here's where a slight dose of hypocrisy comes in. We spend so much time complaining about underachieving superstars, overpaid and overhyped players, incompetent GMs, rookie flops, dreadful officiating, troublemakers, thugs, players and coaches doing/saying dumb things, bad trades and signings, annoying announcers and writers, and overrated teams getting too much credit -- by the way, I do as much complaining and mocking as anyone, I'm not absolving myself here -- that I'm starting to wonder if we'll ever fully embrace a special team anymore. Are we too cynical? Are we too desperate to poke fun at everything? Has being a "fan" morphed into something else? Has the fan-sports dynamic started to become a little unhealthy?

Think about it. As recently as 20 years ago, the concept of a sports radio station didn't even exist. Neither did the internet or DirecTV. Fantasy leagues and SportsCenter were just starting to round into shape, but it was still pretty early for both. You simply watched a game, discussed it with friends, devoured the ensuing newspaper coverage, argued about the game at work or school the following day, then you waited for the next one. Now sports has evolved into a 24/7 event, between the instant highlights and internet coverage, thousands and thousands of Web sites and blogs, an infinite number of fantasy leagues, a never-ending slew of sports radio shows, sportswriters screaming at one another on TV and everything else you can imagine. Every game and event is digested and processed almost instantly, and then it's rehashed and digested again, and then it's beaten into the ground, and within a few hours everyone feels obligated to come up with their own unique angle on things -- even if it's extreme, even if it's insane, even if it's blisteringly nasty or vicious, even if it's completely nonsensical or inane.

And that's what we're REALLY afraid of. We just know that this is the kind of story angle that the ESPN/Talk-Radio/Sports-Print-Media Machine will love. And we just KNOW that they are going to milk this Super Bowl sub-plot for all it's worth. And just when we finally think that cow is all milked out, they will squeeze some more. We will be sick of it after two weeks, and then we'll have to listen to the announcers drone on about it the whole game during the Super Bowl. And the thought of all that is exhaustingly reprehensible.

Well, here's the solution: turn off SportsCenter. Go without a little Sports Talk Radio. And read instead of going to

One other interesting angle about these coach's success. Since the NFL is renowned for being "the copy-cat league" (that is, "If that concept/philosophy/method is working for someone else, maybe we ought to employ that in our franchise as well!"), hiring an African-American coach could become the new trend. Heck, it could carry into the NCAA. And you may think that to be dumb & think NFL exec's are smarter than that. But franchises have copy-catted dumber things before.

This is a significant event from many perspectives. Perhaps not for some of us with a priveleged caucasian perspective. But for many, this is a real inspiration. I'd say it's even on the scale of the Miracle on Ice -- the 1980 USA Gold-Medal-winning Hockey Team at Lake Placid that raised the spirits of an entire nation. This kind of scenario was unimaginable a generation ago. And now? Doors will be opened. Children will be encouraged. Barriers will be removed.

Congratulations Tony & Lovie. I appreciate your dedication to chasing your dreams, and I salute your dual accomplishment of making it to the Super Bowl. Well Done.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Empty Saturday's

If you do the MySpace thing, I've just recently thrown myself in the fray. Click here to go check me out. And please let me be on your buddy list. PLEASE! Don't make me beg.

I've long resisted this teenie-bopper web trend. But alas, no more. Still, I'm sure by signing up for this I am put on some kind of US Government Pedophilia Watch List or something.

I've lost one of my weekend religions. College Football is no more. No more fuzzy-screened Lincoln Financial "SEC Game of the Week" broadcasts at 11:30. No more Vern Lundquist belly laugh's at the Aflac duck. No more 'Bama football. No more.

It was almost a relief when the season actually ended for Alabama almost 2 months ago. Losing is tough on fans who ride out even the hard times. I was glad it was finally over. But now that we have Nick Saban in the house, I'm ready to go again. I'm stoked for next season already. And it's tough to flip on the tube & only see basketball.

So, anyway, I went to YouTube for my fix this morning. This is a recording from when Alabama defeated Tennessee at home in 2005. We were literally inches away from losing the game before a Tennessee player fumbled the ball through the endzone for a touchback. Alabama then proceeded to drive down the field & win the game with a last minute field goal. 6-3. It is the most recent high-water mark for Alabama Football.

Also, I've posted a video from that same afternoon of the favorite post-game tradition of every Alabama fan: The Rammer Jammer. Not the classiest of cheers, but fun nevertheless! Be sure & listen for the woman at the beginning of the clip who exclaims, "We WEEEEEEEIIINN!!" Good stuff!

So here it is in two parts:

Game Highlights

Post-Game Celebration

The Rammer Jammer

Hey Vols ... Hey Vols ... HEY VOLS!
We just beat the HELL OUT OF YOU!
Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer
Give 'em HELL, Alabama!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Confessions of a Control Freak

My name is Philip Cunningham, and I'm a control freak. Perhaps there are worse things in the world to be (like "serial rapist"), but control freak is shameful enough. I like to be in control. I enjoy steering the ship, and feel a certain degree of anxiety when I'm not. I like winning games & competitive events, and feel a great degree of frustration when those competitions don't go the way I want them to. I most certainly AM a control freak.

Today was an especially trying day for this control freak. I often meet with a group of ministry friends every Monday morning. This morning, I spent the entire morning waiting to discover when we would meet, only to find out that we would not be meeting. I was in the middle of an on-line game this afternoon when my phone rang & someone knocked on the door at the same time, forcing me to end my game. Then, when trying to prepare dinner, we were delayed TWICE. I had made a list of groceries to prepare dinner with this week, and we had to make two extra trips to the store today because Dad forgot to pick up groceries on the list. A series of events like that make for a trying day for me. Right now, I'm unsettled & stressed.

Being a control freak manifests itself in a variety of other ugly ways in my life. Without being too specific, you could imagine that Christianity doesn't work too well when you're butting heads with God as to who is steering the ship. Prayer has always been more difficult for me, I sense, than others.

I write here about it because I'm hoping for a little catharsis as I try to settle down to sleep. And if anybody has any friendly encouragement for this control freak, I welcome it.