Monday, November 27, 2006

Turkey Musings

Thanksgiving was good this year, and here are some random thoughts I had over the holidays:

  • If you ever find a recipe to cook turkey on the grill, watch out! When the juices drip into the flames, it can cause a pretty significant fire. Hence the piece of charcoal with legs that I proudly served on Thanksgiving day.
  • Kim's Grandmother got really sick this year, and it looks like she's going to pass away this week. We found out on Thanksgiving day, and it was really hard to enjoy the day.
  • Holiday shopping is no fun when you're a cashier. Kim started working at Kohl's, and the lines on Friday morning were literally a mile long. Wow, what some folks will do to get a bargain!
  • The football was spectacular this Turkey day (that means LSU won!).
  • Putting up Christmas lights is a beating. I was ready to mail it in while unraveling the hellacious mess that is the Christmas light knot. Nothing is more difficult to untie!! I seriously thought I was going to fall off the ladder and die about a dozen times. Don't put up Christmas lights without an insurance policy.
  • Thanksgiving should be cancelled if it's 70 degrees or higher. Dallas winters are a joke!
  • I saw the movie "The Fountain" over the holidays. What a strange and boring film. It had some beautiful imagery, but was very new age-y and Hindu. I highly recommend that you do not see this film.
  • Thanksgiving parades are lame. My sister-in-law loves them, but seriously, what is the deal with watching a parade on tv? The music is horrible, and those performing are lip synching. Tons of money and manpower goes into this thing, and for what? I just don't get it. No offense, Jess. You know I love you!!
  • I am extremely unmotivated heading into the Christmas season. I just want to go on vacation. Anyone else with me? Road Trip?!!
  • I started reading Don Miller's "Searching for God knows What" the other day. Man, it's good. The guy is just a good writer. I also love the fact that he doesn't summarize thoughts about God - the kinds of thoughts that people have wrestled with throughout history - into neat little formlas. So different than most mainstream Christian fluff.
  • I talked to my sister a lot on the phone. She was alone this Thanksgiving, a slave to the evil residency programs that most doctors have to endure. I love talking to her. She makes me feel like I matter. I think I make her feel the same way. Thanks, Donna, for being such a bright light!
OK, I'm back on the saddle again, and you should see some more posts coming soon. Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving! Now, get ready for the ultra hyped marketing machine known as Christmas. You know, the holiday where we celebrate the birth of Santa with large credit card statements and spoiled children? Tis the season!!

Disclaimer: I realize that Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, but I'm referring sarcastically to what Christmas has become, not what it should be.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

God in a Shoe Box

One of the recent struggles that I've entered into in my view of the church is the knowledge vs. service war that rages throughout many communities of faith. Most people aren't aware of this war, but it exists, and it is fought on many fronts. I deal with it all the time. People come to me - well meaning people - and they tell me that they're not getting enough out of their Bible study time, and they need more solid teaching. They seem particularly distraught when, on certain weeks of the year, we emphasize service more than Bible knowledge. There is a fight at this point, and it's usually characterized by a passive/aggressive attitude that smiles at the idea of service, but sneers at the loss of Bible study.

I guess I have trouble seeing where the two are mutually exclusive. What you know, you are required to act upon, and in so doing, you usually gain more knowledge than you ever could in a classroom environment. Protestantism has been largely defined by individual practices of holiness: reading your Bible, prayer, "quiet times", and moral behavior. Unfortunately, these practices have led to a myopic view of faith, and have resulted in a selfish attitude toward service.

But isn't knowing God more defined by a life that is generous with its knowledge of God? How can we know God and be miserly with the riches of His goodness? How in the world can the knowledge of God be a completely individual discipline? It seems to me that if we wanted to know God more, we'd practice serving as many people as we could. That, after all, is what the crucifixion - God's ultimate act of service - was all about.

One of my classes (Life Together) pleasantly surprised me the other night when they decided to forego their normal class lecture for a group act of service. They each brought shoe boxes to class and filled them with all sorts of loving gifts and treats. They spent their entire class time decorating these boxes and filling them with a couple of size 12 doses of love. Their goal was to help with the Operation Christmas Child project, which gave 7.6 million shoe boxes to children in 95 different countries last year. Instead of clamoring for another lecture, this class decided to put all those lectures into practice by spending their valuable class time serving those who have nothing. If that's not knowledge of the divine, I don't know what is!

Thanks, Life Together, for modeling what it means to be knowledgeable Christians. You're winning the war one act of service at a time!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Change of Power
The Republicans got pummeled in the recent elections, and, in my opinion, they got what they had coming. Many will be surprised to see me write that, but I think it's true. Good leadership is all about having vision and communicating that vision in a way that is convincing, appealing and worthy of following. The Republicans have been miserable vision-casters, and as a result, they have seen the power that they fought so hard to attain slip right through their Iraq-loving, scandal-having, money-spending, Fox-News-watching hands. There, I said it.

By the way, I have traditionally voted Republican and I still believe in the more basic tenets of Republican thought: small government, fiscal conservatism and moral responsibility. The current Republican regime isn't placing a high priority on any of these traditionally conservative ideologies. That's probably another good reason why they got hammered in the elections.

On another note, this year's elections were out of control. The kind of bile that both parties spewed was ridiculous and disturbing. $1 billion were spent on negative advertising in this years elections. That's sickening. I wish these guys would clean it up. They expect us to believe that politics are the only hope for humanity, yet they cut each other down like school kids in the middle of a recess smack down. Grow up!!

If you don't believe me, check out John Ellis' article in the Wall Street Journal. It's called, "All Slander, All the Time." It's a worthwhile read. Something's going to have to change soon, or I just won't have the stomach for this junk.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Say Cheese!!

Ever wonder why we run around eagerly snapping photographs of smiling faces? Why is it that we tell the kids to say "cheese" at every family photo-op? When politicians sign bills, they shake hands and smile for the camera; when models flaunt the latest lip gloss, they "turn that frown upside down" and give it their best shiny lipped grin. Why are we obsessed with capturing smiles?

Could it be that the reason we take pictures is to solidify memories of the ideal? I mean, no one runs around at a party and says, "Say Yuck!", while snapping off a picture of the unhappy couple. Photographers don't generally tell families to "act like the dog just died", when they're trying to capture that eternal family moment. Friends don't run around with their camera phones telling each other to "stare blankly so that I can get a good shot of you in my phone." That's just not the way we want to envision each other.

No, we take pictures the way we want to remember and be remembered. We smile, or do silly things, or try to look noble or cool. In so doing, we say a lot about ourselves. We say that real life, with its hardships, frustrations and pains, is not what we were really made for. Those aren't the things we want see when we get the chance at a snap shot. We want to see love and fun and dignity and grace. In short, we want to see what it should be, and not always what it is.

We are our most idealistic when we're holding a camera, because we hope to see only that which is good. Shoot, even when we take a picture of something disturbing like war or death, we don't want it to be blurry or poorly lit. We want it to be clear and symetrical, with shades and accents framing every detail. When people view such photographs we want them to think "Whoa, that's a good picture." When we look through the lens of a camera, we see a world of potential and beauty, so unlike the one we see with our own eyes.

Jesus looked at life through a camera lens. When people saw leppers and blind men, Jesus saw healing. When others saw whores and tax collectors, Jesus saw disciples. What some viewed as treacherous and criminal, Jesus saw as compassionate and wholesome. When Jesus looked at mankind, he optimistically saw endless facets of redemption.

So, as I look at the pictures on my desk, around my house and in books and magazines, I remember that we should be optimistic like Jesus. We should certainly not be decieved into thinking that life is as good as a picture, but we should squint, look through the lens, and see the potential beauty in the world. When we do, we'll see what Jesus saw: opportunities to heal, chances to lead and love, openings for compassion and grace.

Say Cheese!!