Wednesday, August 30, 2006

truly great thing

in july, our family went to see the sound of music at the hollywood bowl. other than the very drunk people behind us who kept making "general lee" and "luke duke" comments (john schneider played captain von trapp, and was "bo duke" anyhoo), it was a great time! under my daughter's strict orders, the sound of music soundtrack has pretty much been streaming 24/7 around here since. so in honor of (or submission to) tsom, here a few of my favorite things from the past couple of weeks...

this past sunday, our family went to the getty museum for a children's concert. charity and the jam band led a fun-filled hour of songs, complete with a "mushpot" (the kids' equivalent of a moshpit, they helpfully explained) of kids in the front, dancing the afternoon away. the band performed on a pretty steep hillside, so after about ten minutes, there was a puddle of kids smushed up in a grinning, dancing bunch to stage-left. though i couldn't have pictured it pre-fatherhood, i enjoy many of daughter's favorite bands. i find myself humming "we are the dinosaurs" or the theme from jack's big music show at the most random times.

while i couldn't play my way out of a paper bag in counterstrike (the first-person perspective makes me dizzy, leaving me an easy target for my students to pick off - with a little too much joy, i might add), i have found a different way to burn through hours on end. guitar hero, thou art my new donkey konga. although she is unfamiliar with such standards as "cowboys from hell" by pantera, or "unsung" by helmet, my wife torches me every time we play. and that's how i know it's true love.

though they haven't released an album since 1989, and even though i haven't been much for concerts these days, i went to see gorilla biscuits in anaheim a couple of weeks ago. it was like being in middle school again, learning to skate on that gigantic christian hosoi hammerhead deck. and apparently, plenty of other old fogies agreed. the sold old crowd relived the glory days of new york hardcore as we moshed, stage-dived and grinned the night away. see for yourself!

and i can't leave out one of my everyday favorites - talking with my daughter. we were driving the other day, talking about how God created the world and she said to me, "jesus is pretty cool, right?" one day, about ten years from now, when she asks me to drop her off at the corner so her friends don't see me, i will remind her of how much fun we had talking :)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

up down turn around

my wife and i had a great discussion over this bible text last week (i know, i know.... nerdy pastor-couple having a bible discussion... but it really is wonderful to have scripture come alive with the one i love).... it started as i was preparing for our upcoming youth retreat. our theme was "the upside-down kingdom" - that is, following jesus offers us more than just a "get out of jail free" card; it will change the way we see the world, often turning things upside-down from the conventional wisdom with which we've been raised...

as i was exegeting the theme text ("whoever wants to become great must become a servant") and setting it in its context, i got kind of stuck on the parable of the workers in the vineyard, in the beginning of matthew 20. i found myself basically siding with the workers who arrived early in the morning to do the hard work. yeah, why should they get paid the same as those lazy eleventh hour "workers"? those guys probably planned to show up at the last minute anyways...

the basic take i've heard on this text goes something like this: don't act like this is unfair because you're all eleventh hour workers! consider yourselves lucky even to be here, sinners! (this usually came before the "repent, you calloused-hearted-sinners" prayer time; some of these pastors probably need to work on anger issues)...

while there might be some truth to this approach (i.e., we cannot earn our salvation), it seems to miss the main point - the thing that is actually scandalous here. namely, that the owner of the vineyard is outrageously generous. there is no enron-type scandal, no looting of employee pensions, no grossly disproportionate ceo wages... no, the scandal is one of grace. the owner is gracious, and it's driving people nuts.

so when jesus hits us with the punchline, "the last will be first, and the first will be last," He is, of course, dealing with more than just the literal order in which the workers are paid. the main point of the parable seems to be the generosity of the owner, not the hard work of his employees. perhaps this is to remind us that God is the main point of His kingdom, and our hard work flows from Him. i don't want to read too far into this parable, but i am reminded that it is a privilege to be even a small part of what God is doing in His kingdom (so much better to work for Him than anyone else) and that, perhaps, serving Him today is reward enough (although what He has promised in the future is not too shabby either)...

thankfully, during the quiz show portion of our retreat, all of our students were able to recognize that the phrase, "you must learn to master your rage... or your rage will master you!" was not an upside-down saying of jesus. nope, that one is from the sphinx!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


...or wall of voodoo?
and its partner in crime (note the "special flavor"):

Thursday, August 03, 2006

hop on the bus

i recently joined a discussion group who will be journeying together through dallas willard's latest work, the great omission. the official discussion won't start until next week, so there's still time to join if you are interested.

i'm definitely excited about this discussion group. i'm also a little bit worried because i've started reading the first couple of chapters, and this is one of those kinds of books. some might say it could "ruin" them. i find myself already uncomfortable with willard's insightful, and incisive, commentary on the state of christianity today. not because i disagree but, rather, because i see myself in so much of his critique.

a quick excerpt:
But the cost of nondiscipleship is far greater - even when this life alone is considered - than the price paid to walk with Jesus, constantly learning from him. Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's over-riding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, nondiscipleship costs you exactly the abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10).

i sometimes find myself almost apologizing for how difficult it can be to follow Jesus. however, i'm starting to recover that right perspective - it actually costs much more not to follow Him. more than just answering with a churchy, flippant "Jesus" to the important questions (how can i live with depth, clarity, passion and purpose? how can i be changed from a jerk into a more godly person? who made flying squirrels?), i want to follow Him.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

the other side of summer

it sounds like good news - the house recently passed a bill to increase minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25. this would be the first increase in minimum wage since 1997. cost of living has certainly increased in the last ten years, so such a move is long overdue...

however, republicans attached to this bill an inheritance tax cut - which only affects the superrich (the wealthiest 0.5 percent of the nation). sojourners breaks down the stats this way:
  • 14.9 million workers earn minimum wage
  • this would increase their annual wage by $1,200
  • the estate tax cuts would benefit 8.200 people
  • their average benefit would be $1.4 million
i suppose i shouldn't be surprised that such a thing would happen. however, it feels a lot like helping people with one hand while pushing them down with the other.

i hear people say things like, "well, if you were that wealthy, wouldn't you want to pass along that wealth to your kids?" of course i would want to provide for my kids as much as possible - but if had that much money, would my kids really need that extra $1.4 million? would having another yacht make their life that much better? i know, i know - they've just got to have that bugatti...