29 June 2008

Music for the Soul

When you are facing 30 plus hours on the plane (to and from Uganda), you have to pick your music carefully. So, here's what I'm taking with me (my music all-star lineup) . . .

Ray Charles

The Temptations



Chris Rice

Maroon 5

What would you take?

NOTE: Wade Hodges . . . I already know you'd take Hall and Oates or however you spell their name . . .

28 June 2008


Because I just finished a course at CTS on postmodern culture, I read this book, this book, this book, and this book.

My head was mashed potatoes when I got to the airport last night.

So . . . I picked up Eric Clapton's autobiography. I'm almost done with it. It's incredible. I hope to write more about it, why it challenges the way Christians do "church," etc. For now, I encourage you to purchase the book. 12 dollars paperback. You won't regret it.

A little teaser from the publisher:

With striking intimacy and candor, Eric Clapton tells the story of his eventful and inspiring life in this poignant and honest autobiography. More than a rock star, he is an icon, a living embodiment of the history of rock music. Well known for his reserve in a profession marked by self-promotion, flamboyance, and spin, he now chronicles, for the first time, his remarkable personal and professional journeys.

Born illegitimate in 1945 and raised by his grandparents, Eric never knew his father and, until the age of nine, believed his actual mother to be his sister. In his early teens his solace was the guitar, and his incredible talent would make him a cult hero in the clubs of Britain and inspire devoted fans to scrawl “Clapton is God” on the walls of London’s Underground. With the formation of Cream, the world's first supergroup, he became a worldwide superstar, but conflicting personalities tore the band apart within two years. His stints in Blind Faith, in Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and in Derek and the Dominos were also short-lived but yielded some of the most enduring songs in history, including the classic “Layla.”

During the late sixties he played as a guest with Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, as well as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and longtime friend George Harrison. It was while working with the latter that he fell for George’s wife, Pattie Boyd, a seemingly unrequited love that led him to the depths of despair, self-imposed seclusion, and drug addiction. By the early seventies he had overcome his addiction and released the bestselling album 461 Ocean Boulevard, with its massive hit “I Shot the Sheriff.” He followed that with the platinum album Slowhand, which included “Wonderful Tonight,” the touching love song to Pattie, whom he finally married at the end of 1979. A short time later, however, Eric had replaced heroin with alcohol as his preferred vice, following a pattern of behavior that not only was detrimental to his music but contributed to the eventual breakup of his marriage. In the eighties he would battle and begin his recovery from alcoholism and become a father. But just as his life was coming together, he was struck by a terrible blow: His beloved four-year-old son, Conor, died in a freak accident. At an earlier time Eric might have coped with this tragedy by fleeing into a world of addiction. But now a much stronger man, he took refuge in music, responding with the achingly beautiful “Tears in Heaven.”

Clapton is the powerfully written story of a survivor, a man who has achieved the pinnacle of success despite extraordinary demons. It is one of the most compelling memoirs of our time.

27 June 2008


Kara and I leave for Uganda in a few days to join our friends in Jinja. While in Jinja, I'll be:

*spending time with our RC interns (who've already made their way there).
*spending time with the leaders of the church planting efforts in Jinja and Jinja Church of Christ.
*teaching a course with Sara Barton on "Luke's Gospel and the Spiritual Life" at the Busoga Bible School.

Kara will be joining me for some of this along with working in a local orphanage and alongside Lori Manry.

The timing could not be better. I have a stack of novels (limited theological inquiry for this trip) I'll need for the flights to and from. We hope to post some photos along the way.

Let's hope the Tigers are in first place when we return mid-July. Yes, I need forgiveness for my idolatry.

24 June 2008

The Future of the Church (OK, That's an Ambitious Title)

Life's been moving so fast, I often find myself reflecting upon things that have come and gone. For instance, last Friday (which feels like a month ago), I taught at the ZOE Conference (Arlington edition). Usually, I teach on Friday (for church leaders) and Saturday (all people)--but I'd already promised to do the wedding of some good friends, so I came to Dallas for less than 24 hours to teach a three session class on leadership in the postmodern world (we are in, regardless of what you think "postmodern" is or isn't).

First, we talked about "re-imagining our world." Instead of fearing post-modern values, we see the emerging world as a place of the gospel to re-contextualized in redemptive ways. This entailed challenging one's view of truth, belief, and the role of certainty.

Then we talked about "re-thinking our word." More than a rule-book or collection of divine timeless principles, scripture is an "unfolding drama" in which we all learn, by baptism and community, what it means to take up our role in the story.

Last, we discussed "re-envisioning our way." We thought, out loud of course, of what it would look like for leaders to reclaim the spiritual practices of hospitality, reading, and sabbath. "Church's are," I ended, "are a direct reflection of their leadership. If you don't like the spirituality of your church, you'd better first change the spirituality of your leaders."

I know that much of American Christianity is in stagnation or decline (save the Community Church and independent Christian Church movements). I'm convinced that much of Christianity will continue to die lest we see the way in which we wed ourselves to the previous era (modernity), repent, and ask God to give us bigger imaginations of what it means to be the church in our time and place.

23 June 2008

Dancing, Chapel, War

This weekend was fantastic. First, I got to spend time with my bride and best friend--something we've needed in the midst of a busy schedule and schooling (Kara's working on her degree right now as well).

I performed the wedding of some dear friends Saturday. Kara and I (along with Ash, Kell, Sean, Brett, Erika, Dan, Katie, and several other friends) were the first ones on the dance floor.

"I didn't know preachers dance," one person commented to me as I took a break into between songs. "I'm all about breaking down stereotypes," I replied as I made my way back to the Jerry Ross band now playing Beyonce.


In case anyone wonders about my education at Columbia Seminary (PC-USA), I've gone to chapel more times since being here than I did in all three years of seminary at ACU and Lipscomb. I find that incredibly funny. Mind you, I don't know 3/4's of the songs, but I'm happy to learn and grown. Today our chapel was lead by ministers from Korea and Jamaica--it was powerful. We ended with this song:

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same
In your company I'll go
Where your love and footsteps show
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you live in me.


Today, I'm wearing a t-shirt that reads, "PEACE IN NORTHERN UGANDA." I'm reminding myself (and generating conversation with others), that I am privileged to be able to study and reflect critically while brothers and sisters in Uganda are still experiencing the evil and brutality of the "powers that be."

19 June 2008

Click here for a hilarious/tragic case study of what it means to be a fundamentalist in the worst sense of the word.

18 June 2008

Mid-Week Ramblings

I never like to be away from home (read: Kara) for more than a few days . . . however . . .

My time in Atlanta at Columbia Theological Seminary has been wonderful. I'm in a class right now with pastors/thinkers from all over the United States (California, New Jersey, North Dakota, Alabama, Georgia, Florida) and the entire world (Taiwan, South Africa, and Korea).

We cover every denomination in Protestant faith: Churches of Christ, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. We're realizing that as different as we are (and we are different!) our struggle is the same because all of us are trying to do ministry/think theologically in (mostly) the same stream: North America.

I just learned that my next course is slated to be with Walter Brueggemann, the Michael Jordan of Old Testament studies over the last thirty years.


Some sports side notes:

*I can't believe the Lakers laid that size of an egg. Wow. I'm stunned.

*Marcus Thames, as Kara will attest, is a great player to root for. He's humble, likable, and just shows up and puts in the work. All he's done now is tie the Tigers record for consecutive home runs for hits.

*The trade rumor mills say Tayshaun and Chauncey for Carmello. If Denver is that dumb to do it, I think it's a great trade. Though, 'Mello and 'Sheed on the same team might be a recipe for disaster.

15 June 2008

I am so proud!

Josh is in Atlanta right now about to start his first class for his doctoral program, so I (Kara, the wife/best friend) am guest-posting tonight to let you all see some pictures from today. I took over 100 pictures, so these are just a few of them!

I am so proud of Josh, he works so hard in his job, at school, and at home and he still dedicated himself to training hard over the winter for today's triathlon. My favorite thing in the world is to cheer him on, and today was so exciting! I actually enjoyed it more than the marathon because the three different events bring so much energy, and the courses were pretty close so I was able to run and catch him at different spots. 

Although he said it was a lot harder than he thought it would be, he gave each event his all and finished strong in a time that he had hoped for. 

I am so proud of you Josh, you were awesome today and you should feel great about this victory!

14 June 2008


Trying to sleep the night before a triathlon reminds me of being a young boy (six or seven) the night before Christmas.

Kara had some young girls from our church stay the night at our house a few years ago. One girl was so anxious, she came into our room and told Kara, "Mrs. Kara . . . I think I forgot how to fall asleep."


13 June 2008

Sunday's Comin'

What does one think about less than 48 hours before his first triathlon? . . .

"A marathon doesn't sound too bad right now."

"Why did I let my family talk me into this?"

"I wonder if there's a chicken exit?"

"Man, that water is going to be cold."

"If a woman gets in my way in the river, will I swim over her?"

"Am I swimming first, then biking, then running? Or is it the other way around?"

"What if I have to go to the bathroom?"

"Will shaving my chest make me faster?"

"Drowning in the Detroit River isn't the worse way to die."

"Do those bike crashes you see on t.v. (where one idiot crashes 50 people) really happen?"
"I should've stuck with church softball."

10 June 2008

Listen to Your Life

Parker Palmer taught me several years back. Palmer came to speak in Nashville when I was a graduate student at Lipscomb University.

I remember sitting next to my friend and mentor, John. He leaned over and said, “This guy is incredible. You will really enjoy this.”

Palmer is well known in academia for his work on education, learning, and teaching. I expected a technical lesson on the finer points of communication. Instead, Palmer brought a prophetic word. This is how I remember the hour we spent with him.

“All of us live our lives as if we were on stage,” Palmer quipped at one point. I leaned in, conjuring up my own images of Shakespeare’s conviction that “all the world’s a stage and we are merely players.”

Palmer continued.

“Many of us live on this stage unaware that we’ve constructed a curtain which divides the front stage from the back stage. The front stage is our public persona—who we want people to think we are. Smart, funny, successful, beautiful, talented, organized, brilliant, caring . . . these are merely some of the characteristics we display while acting and living on the front stage.”

He had me.

“The problem is that we tend to be very different people once we are on the other side of the curtain. Behind the curtain, we take off our hypocrite mask. We lay it down and we allow our true selves to come out. We usually do this when we are alone or in the company of a select few. We speak what we really think. We respond to what really matters to us. We are cynical, jaded. We are full of joy and confidence. We let our hair down, as it were, and allow our true selves to emerge from the cave in which we’ve been hiding.”

This was one of those moments in which I was listening intently while also drowning in my own background and history—remembering times I’d done exactly what Palmer was describing.

“The greatest danger in this identity construct,” Palmer’s voice now rose with passion. “ . . . The greatest danger in this is that we live our lives on the front stage that we completely begin to believe that the front stage is all there is. We act, we pretend, and we perform. And when we do, we eliminate the things that make us human: raw emotion, hurt, pain, joy, passion are thrown away.”

This is one of my fears for our churches . . . that we convince ourselves it is all about having the perfect sermon, the right program, or the slick pr approach. We work, work, and work some more (and ask you to join us in that busyness) and we rarely, if ever, stop to ask for God to quiet our performance and instill us with his power and his presence.

His power raises us from the dead. Our power put him on the cross in the first place. His presence allows us to live with hope amidst a broken world. Our presence leads to division and strife.

09 June 2008

Cold Rivers

With less than one week away from the Motor City Triathlon, my brother and I decided Saturday to test out the waters (literally) of the Detroit River in preparation for the chaos this coming weekend.

Water Temperature: 59 degrees.

Let's just say that the difference between training in a heat-controlled environment at my fancy health club versus being in the Detroit River with 20mph winds and cool temps is the difference between sitting in a seminary classroom talking about grief versus sitting across the room from a parent who has just lost a child; like watching a video on pregnancy versus actually giving birth.

I was not prepared at all for the "real conditions."

So, it got me thinking a bit about our privatized Christian bubbles and the spiritual ghetto's we sometimes create in the name of safety and fear.

The only way to be prepared for the elements of this world is to, well, be fully invested in this world.

I think I'll go make a few calls to price the cost of renting a wet-suit.

06 June 2008

The interview with McLaren went well. Too tired to do a long summary.

The highlight for me (other than McLaren's references to Restoration history) happened early in the conversation. When I asked him what he meant by the statement, "Eschatology always wins" (a question I got from my good friend Lee Camp's interview of McLaren on the site for his new exciting integration of theology, literature, and music, Tokens)?

His response was simple.

"If you think your house is going to burn down the next day, you are not going to be motivated to clean up your room."

What if the house isn't going to burn down? The question you ask almost always determines the answer you conjure.

McLaren Interview

I am about to interview Brian McLaren for Wineskins Magazine. His new book, Finding Our Way Again, is excellent. This book is the perfect follow-up to Everything Must Change.

I'll post later this afternoon about our conversation.

If you have not signed up for ZOE-Dallas, it's going to be a great event. Teaching at ZOE s always one of the highlights of the year for me.

05 June 2008

Texas Lessons

I was fortunate to spend yesterday with people from the Bammel Church of Christ in Houston. Jonathan Ross invited me several months back to speak at their "Life In the Red Zone" summer series.

Before I began the teaching time for their Wednesday night service, I shared my "Most Important Facts to Know About Texas." I figured I'd be back on the plane at 5am this morning, . . . it was worth the risk.

Cue the dramatic music. Here are the most important facts to know.

#1 Not every city looks like Abilene.

#2 Evidently, a football team plays in Dallas.

#3 Despite the legend of the Alamo, Nolan Ryan's destruction of Robin Ventura is the stuff real legends are made of.

#4 The Bammel Ministry Staff might be the best ping pong cohort in Churches of Christ.

#5 (H)Akeem Olajuwon no longer plays for the Rockets.

#6 "Gringos" is a restaurant not a derogatory Spanish term reserved for White Americans.

I thought it would be arrogant to have seven, but then again . . . I'm not Jewish.

#7 There are actually four countries in North America: Canada, Mexico, U.S.A., and . . . Texas

#7b (Dr. Pepper is from Texas not heaven . . . who knew?) . . . this one didn't make the cut.