Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. It has long been the evangelical tradition to react to whatever cultural movement or issue that threatens its hold on the people who once embraced it. All reaction. All fortification. What if instead the church started another conversation? The culture wants to talk about Gender Issues? So? What if we stopped playing issue whack-a-mole? What if we said we are going to talk about this even though the entire internet explodes with that?

2. The smile of my wife like victory and all the spoils thereafter.

3. Books should be less Henry Ford and more Alfred Sisley.

4. Baseball has no time limits. It can go on forever if it needs to. Sometimes I want a game to be over because I want a team to win or I need to go to bed. But when the desire to shorten the time of the game itself enters the discussion it attacks the strength of the game of itself. It’s not like any other sport with their times periods of play. It stands outside and waits and asks us to wait alongside. There is no frenzy like the surrounding world. “It’s boring.” Good. We need that. Incessant laser, smoke and mirrors entertainment has destroyed our taste for long periods of only the smallest of details asking us to pay attention.

5. I am torn between two men. T.S. Eliot saw his work in a bank as a gift for his writing, providing financial security. But there’s Buechner writing on vocation and calling.

6. That lady who sang God Bless America last night for Game 7 of the World Series is someone’s mother or daughter or wife. She’s not a public figure. And so many of you just ridiculed her on social media without mercy.

7. Outside of Louis Coleman, who I know personally, Billy Butler is my favorite Royal. He looks so normal. Only so much more.

8. Sometimes the dread of an event will gather debris as it rolls downward toward the marked day. And you will try and steal happiness with distraction in one moment and then in another wonder how happiness is even possible under the circumstances. You will tell yourself so many things while on the cliff of despair. However, the euphoria you expected when the event is over and the dread was without warrant, is just not there.

9. The excitement most people feel about vacations is pretty close to how I feel about pizza night at our house.

10. I now keep a little book of T.S. Eliot’s poems on my desk at the bank as a reminder.

Random Thoughts at the Beginning of the Week

1. Yesterday I listened to The Replacements’ Don’t Tell A Soul. Those songs changed me. I didn’t know anyone that liked that album. But I loved it and kept listening for years. About once a year I revisit that album and I’m for a short period I’m back in my ’79 Chevette cruising the Parkway trying to convince some friends how good this album is.

2. Jesus was hard on the rich and spoke graciously to the adulterous. We are the exact reverse.

3. The other night Bethany and I went out for dinner and to the bookstore. I sat in the floor and read a poem by Seamus Heaney I don’t think I’d ever read before. That night I dreamed about the poem and could see all the lines on the page. When I woke up, I could remember only a short phrase.

4. People complain about baseball games being too long as if they ever wanted them to be over.

5. Listening to The Replacements made me think of how when I saw the video for Social Distortion’s “Story of my Life” for the first time and I immediately went out and bought that album and played it till the ink on the cassette disappeared.

6. I saw on Twitter the other day where a person was recovering from surgery and having to spend a week in bed and I thought about how great that is. That’s probably not healthy, huh?

7. When it comes to writing, it is not enough to have something to say. Your subject matter is no justification for writing about it with poverty of ability.

8. An enormous section of our Scriptures are poetry. An enormous section of our Christian bookstores are crappy knick-knacks.

9. “A nine-to-five man who has seen poetry.”

10. My wife made roast beef sandwiches with a blue cheese mousse as part of the birthday week and this one of the many reasons I never wonder why I married her.

11. We were there when Oscar Taveras debuted and hit that majestic homer that opened the clouds and signaled a bright future and the hope of so much more. So devavstating for all that hope to now give way to “what might have been.”

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1) The two writers who make me wanna write the most these days are Hemingway and Marilynne Robinson. I think I get them. What they are doing with voice and the use of words. And their sparse handling.

2) I saw someone on social media say Mark Driscoll is far more of a man than his accusers. You know, that may be true of some of them. Since many are women.

3) My first thought, though completely foolish, when my daughter started having a fever, was Ebola. When a nurse who worked with an Ebola patient had a fever, she got on a plane.

4) Marilynne Robinson’s new novel is heartbreakingly good. I don’t know how she keeps doing this. It’s as good as the last two if not better.

5) Until the world doesn’t see our religious leaders as coddled, comfortable, and wealthy, we will continue to lose credibility.

6) Sometimes you just wanna hear, “I blew it. That was wrong.” It’s so rare in the business world and it’s rare in churches.

7) People have asked where I am in the search for a pastoral position. I’ve basically quit looking. It’s exhausting. I’ve come to terms with the idea I’m not what churches are looking for. Maybe that’s a really good thing, for me and them. So for the time being I’m hoping to find work that pays enough for my wife to no longer have to clean houses. And I’m writing.

8) A good book on a cool morning is a treasure worth seeking out.

9) My small group has been going though Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace and I hate that we’ve come to the part about forgiveness. I’m not very good at forgiveness.

10) There is a loneliness that will never be solved by the presence of even the most loving people. I bump up against this often, I think. You’d think it would manifest itself in sadness. But often it’s anger. Rage. Cruelty. A coldness.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1) Abstract discussions of suffering are not helpful. They must be located within a story. Yours or someone else’s. The one who cannot do this should keep silent till they are visited by despair.

2) Every Fall I begin the Harry Potter books and usually finish around Christmas. It’s not intellectual or spiritual, but it helps anyway. There’s a rhythm there I enjoy. Maybe because I miss the characters when it’s done.

3) Success in a job does not guarantee happiness with that job.

4) My daughter already knows all the words to the new U2 album.

5) We all like the story of the underdog until we are hiring someone, then it’s all résumé.

6) Achtung Baby, The Joshua Tree, The Unforgettable Fire, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, Rattle and Hum, War, No Line on the Horizon, Boy, How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, Pop, October, Zooropa

7) All that outrage about the NFL and violence against women didn’t last very long. We love our gladiators.

8) I read someone criticizing the long baseball season the other day. They asked why so many games with so much playoffs. They don’t get it. Baseball was meant to be enjoyed for what it is. Not for merely what your team does. There is an inherent beauty even in the most disastrous of outcomes for your beloved team.

9) I’ve been asked how I feel about Michael Horton’s new book, Ordinary. I wish I could say it didn’t bother me. But I can’t. It’s very disheartening. Very discouraging.

10) A lifetime sitting next to my wife will not be long enough.

Random Thoughts at the Beginning of the Week

1) I hope God enjoys watching me enjoy something the way I enjoy watching my kids enjoy something.

2) I don’t believe the rumors of the demise of the music industry. First, those who say it are comparing it’s state to the year 2000 while ignoring the year 1900. Second, all industries change. Get off my lawn. Third, who would have guessed 10 years ago that vinyl would be so big. No one knows what’s coming.

3) My wife has beauty, talent and wisdom. She said the other day, “People only think what was popular is cool. But not what is popular now.”

4) The evangelical Christian ghetto cannot answer the relationship between grief and rage.

5) I would like a vocation that is a destination.

6) It is no easy task, unburdening yourself with those whose problems you’d gladly exchange for.

7) Hope is exhausting. Maybe it’s supposed to be.

8) Last week I went to an Anglican funeral. It was probably the best worship service I’ve ever attended. And most likely the most help I’ve gotten in grief.

9) There are two types of problems/struggles people have. Those remedied by time and/or money. And those only remedied by the making of all things new. Wisdom recognizes the difference between the two.

10) There is a holiness in unreserved laughter among friends.

Random Thoughts on the Music that Helped Me Make Sense of the World

1) Of all my thoughts about the new U2 album, the one I keep thinking the most is how much these songs remind me of all the emotions and ideas that drew me in at the age of 16. I keep hearing all those old albums in this one even though this album sounds like none of the old albums.

2) I can understand people not liking their music. A little. But the abject violence with which U2 and Bono particularly are spoken of, is bizarre.

3) Lyrically, this is one of the best albums they’ve done in a long time. This is not to discredit the others. Achtung Baby is the standard for me, not just for U2 but for most bands. And I have to go back to it, to find one with lyrics this good.

4) In those first few years after discovering them, I would scrounge up whatever money I could find. Go without lunch. Lunge at coins left on the ground. I cleaned toilets and even watched kids at church so I could drive my 1979 Chevette over to Century Plaza mall to buy whatever U2 album or EP or single I did not have. So, it’s kinda hard for me to sympathize with those who are upset about how they were given a free album.

5) Nothing will ever sound as good as War on cassette (complete album on both sides) coming through those 100 watt Sony speakers sitting in the corners of my black vinyl backset.

6) If someone broke into my house and downloaded a new U2 album onto my computer, I’d be OK with that.

7) When Rattle & Hum was released I skipped school to wait outside the music store at the mall to be the first one to get it. And then saw the movie in the theater 3 times in the first 8 days it was out. I still love that film with all my heart.

8) U2 was a large part of my growth as a Christian in High School and College. Bono was the only Christian I knew that used bad language and drank alcohol. That was hard for a Southern Baptist pastor’s kid to get. But I began to see the kingdom was bigger than I thought and many of the laws enacted were peculiar to my own cultural context. I also saw a largeness and openheartedness to others and their thoughts and ideas and dreams. Bono didn’t cause me to doubt but it sure was nice to know I was not alone in the doubts I had.

9) I’ve posted a lot on social media about U2 in the past week because the release of a new U2 album is an event we should be orienting our lives around. You know, kinda like Christmas. There should be parties and festivities. Games. A day off, even. The only person who could disagree is the one who has never seen them live.

10) I remember exactly where I was at the age of 16 when the songs broke through. The corner of Esplanade and Mountain Drive. My friend Scott Smith let me borrow War. I had just dropped him off a few minutes before and Sunday Bloody Sunday is what did it on that sunny Summer Alabama day. Still does.

The Otherness of Jesus We Reject

There is an *otherness* to Jesus we reject. Maybe unwittingly. But still, we do so.

We rightly like the otherness of Jesus when it comes to his justifying work on the cross. We need that otherness since he is the only One Who can save us from our sins. He is the only one who is without sin. He alone is truly holy.

But his otherness when it come to our sanctification is rejected. If sanctification is the process by which we are made holy. And Jesus is the holiest one who ever lived, we should look at his life and learn some holiness. But his otherness – his being altogether outside of our expectations is rejected. We want well-adjusted, respectable, starched shirt leaders. And we want to be that. If that otherness ever manifests itself in our leaders or loved ones, such behavior is rejected.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1. Following Jesus does not appear to me to be a life of “never do this.” Sex is permitted, adultery is forbidden. Drink is permitted, drunkenness is not . Jesus told the disciples to get a sword and pursue peace. Lying is clearly wrong unless you are Rahab protecting the spies. We want clean and neat categories (and leaders). But the Scriptures will not allow it.

2. The beach is basically people lying around in very colorful underwear.

3. Criticizing Joel Osteen is the theological equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. I assume this is part of the reason why there are so many high-profile pastors going after him. There is no risk. He is outside of their theological camp. The risk comes when you don’t just step away from men like Driscoll but publicly rebuke just as you promoted.

4. I’ve been listening to The Avett Brothers this week. I’d never really given them much of a chance but they kept showing up in a Pandora station and their songs kinda stay with you throughout the day till you have to listen to them again. I was afraid their being likable in their music was gonna leave me disappointed once I got to “know” through interviews, etc. But really, they are as likable as any group of musicians I’ve ever been exposed to.

5. We went to the beach over the weekend and all that time with Bethany makes it hard to go back to work. Not just because of vocational frustration but because of the time away.

6. The world is round. And so is pizza. This is a profound truth worth thinking on for a season.

7. It is hard to believe in a calling to the pastorate if one does not receive a call from a church. If you never make it past the initial phone conversation repeatedly, maybe, just maybe, the calling does not exist. It’s not proof, but it’s a word that should be listened to.

8. If you believe that porn objectifies women and turns them into sexual objects, what do you believe about action movies and video games full of violence? Are any of these helping anyone to love their enemy?

9. Compliments used to make criticism more palatable are darkness disguised as light.

10. There is an otherness to Jesus we have rejected.

Mark Driscoll, High-Profile Pastors, and Credibility

Over the past few years there have been many posts by high-profile pastors and Christian leaders about the importance of the Church in the Christian life. Specifically, the subject is the goodness of church membership over against the perceived “just Jesus and me” trajectory of younger believers.

I’ve agreed with much of what they have said. I love my church. I feel I need the community for my good and my family’s. They are the epitome of kindness. So all things being equal I’ve agree in principal if not always in tone.

But all things are not equal.

Take Mars Hill Church in Seattle where Mark Driscoll is the “pastor” as an example. Paul Tripp has called Mars Hill “the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” He didn’t say “only,” he said “most.”

Mars Hill was pointed to for years as a beacon by me and all the high- profile Calvinist leaders involved with The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. And all of them talked about the value of the institutional church and still do. And now in the wake of increasing scandal, the only thing we have heard is that we should pray for Mark Driscoll and his family.

That’s it.

I want you to think about that.

I am what you would call a conservative evangelical Calvinist. This is my tribe. But all the writings on the importance of the church will be met with skepticism without the acknowledgement of specific abusive systems. In other words, if you’re gonna applaud a leader and his church and point others to him and his ministry when things are fine, you will lose your credibility if your only public reaction is to call for prayer for the leader of the abusive ministry and offer none for the those abused. Because those are the ones who are most likely to question the value of the church in their life.

I know this because I’ve heard from them. And I’ve tasted it myself.

The credibility of the church will rise and fall on how it treats the weak and wounded. Mark Driscoll called former friends and former pastors “bodies under the bus” and was hoping for a mountain of them. I know of no high-profile pastor who has publicly called for prayer for those bodies.

I read a comment on Facebook or a blog a couple days ago, that said something to the effect of, “this is why I left church behind, not Jesus, just the church.” I gotta be honest, it’s hard to blame them. Once pastors start systematically wounding people, they are no longer shepherds but wolves. And the American Evangelical Industrial Machine is protecting the wolves with silence and PR firms. And God help us, calls for prayer. None for those on receiving end of the abuse, though.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1) You lose a rootedness when you lose your parents.

2) The more public the ministry of a pastor, the more visible the fruit of the Spirit should be.

3) If you use the antonym of all the words to describe Jesus in Isaiah 53, you get a pretty good job description for the American pastor.

4) I know you like pizza. But I dream about it when I run.

5) Speaking of Jesus, I’m amazed at how unreasonable and crazed Jesus must have sounded. And sounds. His miracles kept him in the game,but man, even the way he taught was outside of expectations.

6) The problem in Matt Walsh’s post was not merely the content. It was the timing plus tone. You can say all the correct things at the wrong time and in the wrong way.

7) My kids are enjoying school too much for me to not consider a paternity test.

8) I have often wondered if those who suffer from depression are seeing something. The common wisdom is that it’s a kind of blindness. And that may be true. A blindness to the light. But I wonder if maybe they are seeing the darkness for what it really is and the props are just no good anymore.

9) I was not a huge fan of Robin Williams. But as a teenager I loved poetry. But there was always this guardedness. I knew no one else that cared about it. Dead Poet’s Society changed all that.

10) He had good form and majesty so we would look at him. And was a good-looking fellow so we would desire him. He was well thought of and accepted by men. A man of smiles, and acquainted with happiness.

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