Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1.  I feel sorry for those in the 2nd world. Nobody ever talks about their problems.

2. All it takes is a broken lock on the door of a bathroom in a crowded restaurant for dignity to disappear.

3. Opening Day.

4. Mumford and Sons is starting to really grow on me. And not in a fungus sort of way.

5. “In Lego Star Wars they break into little pieces but in real Star Wars they just die.” – Emma, 7

6. I, ummm, know a guy who may be kinda addicted to Angry Birds.

7.  My 5 year old son has taken quite a liking to bacon. I mean, I’m proud and all, but sharing bacon is not necessarily a virtue in this house.

8. Right now I’m reading 4 books. One by a Catholic Monk. A Presbyterian Preacher. One written by an Anglican single lady in the late 18th century. And another by a pastor in the Anabaptist tradition.

9. The three littlest Redmonds will be staying at the grandparents on Friday night. You know what that means? Lots of uninterrupted Angry Birds.

10. You’d think those with all the answers would be really comfortable with those with lots of questions. But you’d be wrong.

Midweek Music: Van Morrison

I’m tempted to say, “If you are not listening to Van Morrison, you are not listening.” But I won’t say it. I’ll just think it instead.

A friend once told me the thing which sets Van’s music apart from others was his quest for beauty. I’d never thought about such a quest before. And certainly not in relation to music. Music was about cool and awesome. But I remembered that sentiment. It stayed with me and grew to point of me laying down some hard-earned cash on a Van Morrison disc. I only knew a couple songs. But I grew to love them all. I listened to it for weeks. Then I bought another and another. And more and more.

I have over 40 of his albums. Some of them are rare bootlegs. All of them are ‘desert island discs.’ Jazz. Blues. Country. Soul. Celtic. R&B. Pop. It’s all there. And full of beauty. The kind of beauty that takes up residence inside you, puts its feet up and rests there for a lifetime.

Why Are Catholics Great Writers and Baptists Are Not?

For a while now I’ve been toying with a question. Maybe a year or so at the most. I’ve had an answer in mind but I still keep asking the question anyway.

Why is it that Catholics are the best writers? And some of my favorites?

Flannery O’Connor. J.R.R. Tolkein. Thomas Merton. Dorothy Sayers. G.K. Chesterton.

And what about those who are far more similar to them than the people I’ve surrounded myself with? You know like the Anglicans.

Shakepseare. C.S. Lewis. Jane Austen.

And one of my favorites these days is Eugene Peterson, who has learned a great deal from those of Rome. Heck, I would have never picked up Merton if not for him.

My first and simplest answer is that they have a sacramental (read: sacred) view of words. Words are precious and full of beauty. They stand by themselves full of value, devoid of their use. But this is not how we evangelicals primarily think of words. We only use them – whoring them out. They have a function. Like machines. Maybe this is why I can think no writer, who is Baptist – outside of Bunyan – who is lauded as a ‘great writer’ by those outside of the evangelical subculture.

What do you think? Can you think of great writers who are Baptists? Who am I missing?

What have you read that could help me think about this some more?

Is it relevant that all of them are Paedobaptists?

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. Do you know how hard it is to play Angry Birds living in a house with 4 other people?

2. I’m guessing our president and vice president were against pretty much everything they have done before they were for it.

3. Wisteria. Red Buds. Dogwoods. Azalea. Pear. Cherry. Oak. Honeysuckle. Bacon.

4. Wait…if we think a book is heretical because a famous pastor said it was, does that make the pastor a Cardinal?

5. My kids like to play with all the pillows and cushions from the couch. And they like to do so on the floor. I say we leave them there to show our solidarity with the Middle East.

6. I’m no Monk, but I find it hard to drive my car with all this pollen on it.

7. Hey, if that pastor/cardinal is upset, are they an angry bird?

8. Bethany and I have been watching the Star Wars movies and the first two remind me of MST3K.

9.  Do we really think Twitter is a great place to mass rebuke people we have never set our eyes on?

10. So, I’m reading this book about heaven and hell and the fate of everyone who has ever lived and it tells the story of some people getting a second chance after dying and us being surprised at who is there. I started to throw the book away but then I realized I would only have the first six books of every evangelical’s favorite children’s series.

Midweek Music: The Civil Wars

What does it sound like when two great voices careen against each other?

The first time I heard them, I had just turned off the road known to long-time Birmingham residents as “Diaper Row.” I was on the Red Mountain Expressway driving north. We had then  a radio station that would actually play a song like ‘Poison and Wine’. Fifteen minutes later I had downloaded the EP of the same name, tweeted about it and got a thanks from Joy Williams.

I don’t know what kind of music you call Biblical. But I’ve been doing some reading in the OT and there is a lot of betrayal and beauty, murder and mystery, passion and paradox all the way through. The best music has at the very least echoes of this. Which is why I like Barton Hollow, their first full-length album. It’s Biblical in the same way Flannery O’Connor is Biblical.

And O’Connor is a good comparison.

There is a southern gothic edge to it. Beauty with darkened filigree. But not too much filigree. This album is dominated by two voices, a guitar and a piano. But the two voices define it. Joy Williams voice is hypnotic and the kind you could get addicted to. It’s the audible version of a thousand pools of light. John Paul’s voice is well…is it OK to say a man has a beautiful voice?

This album is worth far more than the $5 you can get it for on Amazon.

One last thing. ‘Poison and Wine’ – the first song I heard by them is the kind of song you wish would never end. So don’t feel guilty about hitting ‘repeat’ again and again. Everybody does it.

Some Thoughts on Tim Keller’s ‘King’s Cross’

King’s Cross by Tim Keller is fantastic. I’ve been reading it devotionally since I bought it a couple of weeks ago. It’s hard. I want to keep on reading.

But it works so well devotionally, I’ll keep trying. What I mean is, I keep thinking about it throughout the day. Not that this should be the litmus test for devotional literature. That’s silly. But there is simply enough for me to think on within each section. Sometimes I read a section twice.

So here are some thoughts after reading about 60 pages…

1. More and more I’m attracted to writers who write like a poet. Their words move. There is life in the way the words are situated, not just used. Most Christian writers only whore out words. They do not love them. They use them. Tim Keller is not so much a poet. But he doesn’t merely use words. He writes clearly. Not many people can do this and still be interesting.

2. Familiarity breeds contempt. But contempt does not always out itself. Sometimes it is there but you cannot see it. I was not excited about a book going through Mark. I’ve taught and read it so much. We should fight against this familiarity while still being glad we have 4 gospels and many places to go when we need to hear from God.

3. I started reading this book at the very beginning of the Rob Bell drama. To read about the life of Jesus as he deals with Pharisees is helpful. That’s all I should say at this point. Except I think Peterson may be right.

4. Keller quotes George MacDonald, “…those who believe more must not be hard on those who believe less.” Then Keller answers why. “Because faith is ultimately not a virtue; it’s a gift.” There is a grand canyon between those two ways of looking at faith. And we are watching that gulf grow at rapid pace. Why? We love to be hard on people.

5. Different groups tend to try and co-opt Jesus. This will not do. He stands athwart the designs of those would ask him to identify with their group and he says, “You must identify with me.”

Midweek Music: St. Patrick’s Day Edition

I’m Irish. My family – the Redmonds – can be traced back to Wexford County. There is no end to the enjoyment of this fact for me. Among my forebears was a John Redmond, who as a Protestant member of Parliament defended the rights of his Catholic neighbors. Rarely a popular move.

My love for bands and singers from The Emerald Isle is merely accidental. Or genetic. Maybe the way destined lovers are brought together unbeknownst of the predestined link, I was drawn to so many Irish musicians. None of it was because I thought I should be listening to this music. It just happened because I had to like it. And that’s the only music worth listening to anyway.

I’ve been listening to The Chieftains for about 11 years now. I discovered them through Rich Mullins, I think. A lot of their songs are about lost love, drinking and murder. What is not to like about old men singing about lost love, drinking and murder? Sounds like the Old Testament to me…

Van the Man. I never get tired of Van Morrison. Ever. For even a moment. I wanted to name a child after him but my wife did not like ‘Van Morrison Redmond’. We settled on ‘Dylan.’ Watch this by the man from Belfast and you can just thank me later.

Can you remember the first time you heard Bono say, “Sing this with me, this is 40.” I was in my ’79 ‘vette. Chevette, that is. No reverse. Speakers sitting in the vinyl backseat and a cassette of Under A Blood Red Sky pushing them to the outer limits of respectability. I was driving toward the parkway on Esplanade. It was Summer and Scott Smith had given it to me to try out. If you can’t love this, you aren’t converted.

The Video I Know I’m Not Necessarily Supposed to Like But Do Love

I love this. I know I’m not supposed to. But I do. I’ve watched it about 10 times.

Why you ask? I was not bullied a lot as a kid but I was enough to hate school. I got picked on a good bit for my stuttering among other things.  I probably did my own share of bullying, for which I look back on in horror. I also finished up my High School years at a school where I was really scared some days.

You might also ask, “Is this what you would ask your kids to do”?

Nope.

I would ask them to walk away. But if they did do this I would tell them to never do it again. And while they were suspended I would buy them toys, take them to Chuck-E-Cheese, Yogurt Mountain and we’d stay up late watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. And then I would give them extra kisses.

And probably ask them to not do it again…with a wink.

Random Thoughts

1. This post by Kevin DeYoung about Bell’s book is good and respectful.

2. I read Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure again this past weekend for sermon prep. It is hard to get over his genius.

3. I don’t trust people who don’t eat bacon.

4. My son, who is five, and I played catch with a ball and our gloves for the first time the other day. Very special time. Each sound of the ball hitting the glove was an echo of my Dad and I doing the same.

5. Advice: Don’t eat at a chinese restaurant where the sugar packets are from Captain D’s.

6. The Young, Restless and Reformed segment of evangelicalism is one characterized by smackdown.

7. My kids are so disobedient. I keep telling them to stop growing up and they just keep on doing it.

8. I got to spend time with some of my former students from Mississippi this past Saturday. I am still reeling from the joy of seeing them and watching them walk in faith.

9. Some are arguing that we should do away with nuclear reactors because of the possible meltdowns due to the earthquake in Japan. Whereas, I would argue we should do away with earthquakes.

10.  Whoever is making the decision about retaining Daylight Savings Time does not have any young children.

Prayer From A Lack of Faith

A thought just hit me. A question really.

Do I ever pray because I lack faith?

Prayer always looks good. Always. Also It feels good. And Spiritual. But I wonder if sometimes I – and others –  ever pray because we do not trust God and are asking him to do something different. I wonder if sometimes our prayers are a reflection of our lack of trust in God and his ways of doing things.

Maybe I can explain it better like this.

What if something happens and we do not have any audio and video for a worship service? My tendency would be to pray the problem would be taken of. Which – all things being equal – is not bad. For I believe God is powerful and can fix this problem. But my tendency is to pray for God to wield this power of his to take care of what I think is the problem.  Why is it a problem? Because I do not think God can be worshipped well without A/V. I do not believe the means of grace – the word and sacrament – are powerful for him to be worshipped and to draw people into fellowship with him.

So in unbelief, I pray.

This is different than acknowledging my unbelief in prayer. This is not, “I believe…help my unbelief.” This is, “God, exert your power because I do not think what you have given us as the base minimum for corporate worship is powerful enough.”

No wonder pastors get burned out.

But we also do this as parents and spouses and doctors and lawyers and homemakers and accountants and artists and plumbers. We ask God to do something because we do not believe he is doing something. Either because we look at the mundane and expect the extraordinary as proof of his power or we simply have no vision for a God working where we do not see him working.

This of course does not preclude prayer. The opposite is true. Now we are able to say to God, “I believe you are powerful, so I come to you in prayer. And I believe you are working powerfully for my good (and the good of your people?) even though I can’t see you.”

In other words it’s kinda like saying, “I believe, I believe…help my unbelief.”