Linkage

1. Looks like they might have actually found the tomb of St. Philip.

2. I literally nerded out when I learned the man who played Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter was a student of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.

3. I miss Michael Spencer and am thankful for such posts as this. (Ducking.)

4. John Stott has gone on ahead of us. Here is a good short tribute.

5. A friend of mine has started a new “mom blog.” Go give her some blog love, moms.

6. I’m not a prophet or the son of one but the day I bought Adele’s 21, I told all of you it would be the album of the year. And…

7. A feel good baseball story for ya.

8. Tonight my wife and I will be going to see the last Harry Potter movie. Watch this video of my former seminary professor, Jerram Barrs talk about the redemptive themes of the story.

9. Speaking my former Seminary – which I think is singular – Check out the Worldwide Classroom and you can “take” the classes there for free. I paid thousands and they were worth every penny.

10. “Being Radical for Jesus Is Boring.”

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. I don’t want to live in a world with no black bomb birds.

2. Normally after I see a band/singer live in concert, I want to listen to their music. But after seeing U2 and Josh Ritter live, I’ve just wanted to listen to Adele. And Ray Charles.

3. Well, at least I write good.

4. I don’t believe in forced baptisms or conversions. But I do believe in forced Harry Potter readings.

5. My son keeps telling me it’s unfair there are not more “punch bugs” on the road. And I don’t even know how to respond except to say, “I know.”

6. I’m very, very particular about what coffee I will drink – it has to be inexpensive, brown and hot or lukewarm.

7. So I’m reading The Count of Monte Cristo and the whole time I’m thinking, “This is incredible! Why didn’t I read this for the 7th time earlier!”

8. Taking the kids to the beach next week. Thinking about going on vacation afterwards.

9. I’m pretty sure the answer to our country’s financial problems are jet-packs and rocket-launchers.

10. This bacon-free list is brought to you by Thursday morning’s sausage and biscuits.

Seven Complaints



“You will be like God.” – The Deceiver

Seven poisons. Seven temptations? All have the echo of the first lie. A straight line from the first lie to seven little ones. There are most likely more…some I’ve bought into and therefore was not able to list because I may be just too mired in it.

1. The Excitement. We have no vision for a God who works unawares. You might challenge me to list 7 exciting things God is doing in the church right now. But I am not all that concerned about the exciting because I think he is always doing something and it’s always exciting. Every moment of every day. And even if I cannot see it, I assume God is working for the good of his people and the glory of his name. Just because you cannot see it, does not mean God is not working. We are stupid for excitement.

2. The Power. We will blast the hell out of Rob Bell for a yet-to-be-published book questioning hell. But circle the wagons in silence when one of our own is publicly accused of abusing his power. And then use our power to attack those who have publicly accused him of this. We could have just waited for Bell’s book to come out first and then written thoughtful responses. We could have waited to accuse those who have started these blogs – representing hundreds upon hundreds of people who claim spiritual abuse – until after the dust settled. But no, the need to minister from a position of strength and power, waxes and rarely wanes till it’s too late.

3. The Profusion. Podcasts, vodcasts, conferences, webzines, blogs, twitter, facebook and now Google+ – all of it is now a means of information about how to think, live and believe as a Christian. And these do not even take into account the weekly bible studies, accountability groups, prayer meetings, worship gatherings and Sunday services. It is all so much and coming at us 24/7 with unrelenting urgency. Most will not be able to keep up. They will give up because it is all too much. Less than an hour after your pastor’s message, you will see a link to an interesting sermon from a pastor across the country and it will be in high-def video. As you go to tweet about it moments after it is over, you’ll see a killer quote to retweet. And on and on and on…A deep, abiding thought will be almost impossible. And we will not rest in a Word.

4. The Perspective. We have none. And it’s why we get all excited about a pastor’s criticism of something like the American Dream while not even stopping to wonder if they have achieved it yet. We use iPhones to make people feel guilty about their wealth. We say ridiculous things like, “Instead of criticizing __________, you should be out witnessing!” Back at ya.

5. The Young. If Whitney is right and the children are our future, we’re screwed. I’d prefer my parents were the future or their parents. Heck, I don’t even want to be the future. But I digress. There are some things – theological, political, social, familial, etc. – I’ve been thinking about for a while. But today’s young Christians – some half my age – thinking about an issue over night after watching a documentary, reading a book, etc. are suddenly experts espousing you know thoughts on like stuff. We need to recapture a practice of stopping and thinking and learning before we are old and only do the stopping and thinking and learning because we have failed so often that we now see the need.

6. The Celebrity. Maybe it’s always been the case. But I cannot help but think with the advance of the internets and the rise of social media, the cult of personality has grown within the evangelical church. It has minimized the work of the local church and placed the power to save and sustain in the abilities of a few while marginalizing the work of the Spirit. It’s created elitist pastors who hob-nob in green rooms before going on stage at conferences.

7. The Cool. We are thirsty for cool and have drunk it down to the dregs. In an effort to be relevant and gain market-share, we have taken every cool trend, product, hip TV show, movie and music star and baptized them for our purposes. We wanna be cool, be see as cool and want to be guilty of cool by association. It’s really just sad. And Junior High.

Let me close by saying, God is powerful and good. He will not ever forsake his people. But these facts do not preclude us from being concerned about some of these things. I am assume there are other things to be concerned about. It is certainly possible I am part of the problem behind other complaints and therefore have not seen them. Guilty as charged, I am sure.

And sometimes a complaint is not mere complaining. Call this a last salvo for a while as this blog takes a different turn…

Seeing Josh Ritter Live

When my wife and I were leaving the concert last night, we realized we were leaving a concert with an autographed novel, two sippy cups and getting in a mini-van.

This was not your typical rock concert.

I’ve been listening to Josh Ritter since the winter of 2007. And although he did not play the first song I ever heard of his and consequently my favorite – Girl in the War – it felt like the fulfillment of something. Not so much a prophecy as an investment.

You see, you can rarely listen to Josh’s songs for mere entertainment. Unless of course you are the kind of person that picks of T.S. Eliot for the same. It’s just not that kind of music. There are exceptions but for the most part it’s music for a quiet room and the night sky.  His songs sit comfortably in the middle of all that is still.

Last night’s show in my hometown of Birmingham proved this. There were moments the hush among the crowd sat upon the precipice of impossible. He sang “In the Dark” in the dark. Literally. He stepped in front of the mics, had them turn out all the lights and he stood there without any amplification, along with his guitar, pleading.

So often during the show I felt like I would ruin it by singing along. Not because anyone would hear me, but because I would miss a note.

You notice a few things watching Josh live. He appears to have boundless energy. He bounces to change guitars and cannot keep his right leg still. I don’t know that it’s nervous energy so much as his excitement at getting to do what he does. And you can tell he enjoys it.

He never plays it cool.

One of the things I love about Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and Bing are how you can hear their smile, you can tell they are enjoying it all. They are happy about being able to do what they do. Josh hardly ever stops smiling. It’s infectious and we sat in a position – almost like a box seat off to the side, about 10 feet from the stage – to see the faces of most everyone else. And they were smiling too. You can’t stop smiling as you lean forward from moment one.

Josh talks about heaven, salvation and the Bible more than any artist I know. And yet most of it is from the stance of veritable unbelief. I’ve wrestled with this. And I cannot help but wonder if it’s the spiritual version of the little boy pulling the pigtails of the pretty little girl on the playground in preschool. Either he wants it to all be true but cannot buy in. Or he knows it is true and cannot help but fight it.

This was more of a show than I expected. He waltzed with his guitar during “The Curse.” And before “Wolves” was over, he howled for us. He kicked off a shoe for fun revealing a red sock and played the symbol with his guitar. He laughed at his humor…and told funny stories. Think Vaudeville without being campy.

A lot of artists will say how they feel privileged to be there. It usually feels like the usual nice thing you are you supposed to say that is being said so as to be nice. But last all the way from Idaho…To The Dogs Or Whoever, we all believed him.

Linkage

1. My friend Anita has some great non-sentimental, realistic, hopeful mom-writing on her blog. Check out Overwhelmed By Blessing.

2. Enjoy them but just know Farmer’s Market Can’t Change the World.
3. What about “The Blogs“, defenders of SGM/CJ Mahaney keep referring to?
4. Some reality on one of the plans for dealing with America’s debt problem.
7. Has Mission Become Our Idol? Part One and Two
9. As I type this I am waiting to buy tickets to see Adele live in the ATL. Here is her incredible performance at the 2011 iTunes Festival.
10. I know I’m not ‘supposed’ to like Ann Coulter but sometimes we all need a little perspective.

Random Thoughts for Thursday

1. I think fries should be served with pizza.

2. Shouldn’t it be “debt floor” instead?

3. It may be true that the bigger they are the harder they fall. But it is also true that the the bigger they are the more untouchable they are.

4. I keep thinking of Lionel Richie when I read about the debt ceiling.

5. How come every movie isn’t as awesome as Silverado?

6. Yesterday a number of people ended up on my blog because they searched for “cokkie crisp cereal.”

7. Look, I don’t like spanking my kids either but…Angry Birds!

8. I have now read a number of people say we should not be reading those vicious anti-SGM attack sites full of nothing but angry, spiteful, disgruntled people. What is wrong with this statement?

9. I didn’t really believe in the circle of life till I saw my kids laughing hard at Tom & Jerry this morning.

10. Shrimp wrapped in bacon.

The Tyranny of Cool

It was probably in 2003 or 32004 while I was doing youth ministry in Augusta, GA. that I first talked of “the tyranny of cool.” Off the cuff, I was probably thinking in terms of hyperbole. I wanted to use language  that would convey the destructive quest of seeking to be cool. Freedom was the goal. Being a teenager is hard and they needed to hear they don’t need to make it harder by worrying about how cool they are. Or how cool everyone else thinks they are.

They were teenagers.

But in the evangelical world in which I swim, the same is true for adults. Like adolescents pining for attention and jockeying for position, young adults, mostly men – many of them pastors – take their message of what is cool public.

The tyranny of cool shames those who would not consult the experts on how to dress cool. By looking down on them. Indeed, even we Christians find it easy to say there is no greek or hebrew but cannot articulate “there are no crocs or toms.”

The tyranny of cool is a totalitarian regime dictating the movements and thoughts of all who live under its thumb. The church should be a sanctuary for all who long for freedom. But it’s not always. It is far too often another outpost of the gospel of cool which trades the robe of Christ’s righteousness by which we are justified for the threadbare of what is acceptable.

Every tyrannical regime has a propaganda machine bent on pushing all who would resist its will into conforming. Novelty, humor, being above it all and high walls enforcing the boundaries of celebrity are weapons in this authoritarian militaristic government. They have wielded our digital world with brand-named ferocity.

For years I sought to smuggle teenagers out through painful means. (Often those daring enough would be picked off by enemy snipers.) But who will set the adults free? Who will free them? Pastors? But the pastors now are hemmed in…in the name of being relevant.

We can’t even claim our first parent’s sin. They wanted to be like God. We just wanna be cool.

Tuesday’s 10: Possible New Names for Blog

I’ve gotta rename this blog. I need to. I want to. I just don’t know with what. But I have a few ideas. Feel free to vote on any of these following ten possible names:

1. Redmond’s Pub/Redmond’s Public House (Get it? Redmond? Irish name before “pub…”?)

2. Echoes and Stars (My favorite post yet.)

3. The Pint and Pipe (Too edgy?)

4. The Rock and The Hard Place (Never a comfortable place to be…)

5. An Ordinary Place (Too obvious?)

6. No Man’s Land (For those who do not fit.)

7. The Bluff (I live in Bluff Park.)

8. Bacon and Bits (Recommended by a friend.)

9. What You’re Already Thinking (Often a post seems to resonate with dozens who say this was the case.)

10. The Bates Motel (Using my middle name…I know, why would my parents use “Motel” for a middle name?)

"Has Mission Become Our Idol?" (Updated)

Skye Jethani has written what I believe to be one of the most important articles I have read in a long time. He finishes Has Mission Become Our Idol? with these words…

If a pastor’s sense of worth is linked to the impact of his or her ministry, guess what believers under that pastor’s care are told is most important? And so a new generation of people who believe their value is linked to their accomplishments is birthed. If the cycle continues long enough an institutional memory is created in which the value of achievement for God is no longer questioned. Leaders may be burning out at a rate of 1,500 per month, young people may be riddled with anxiety, and divorce rates in the church may be rising and families falling apart, but no one stops. No one asks whether this is really what God intended the Christian life to be. No one asks, at least out loud, because that might slow things down. Remember, the work must go on. Impact, man!

I am almost cried from sheer joy to see these words. Why? Because I have been asking these questions and out loud. I have asked, “Why is Paul so silent on evangelism?” I have expressed some of these concerns in my criticism of the criticism of the American Dream. I have wondered about the word/idea of “missional” itself? And I have been asking for over a year, “Is there a God of the mundane?” And hopefully my book (coming soon?) will be louder yet.

Many of us are asking these kinds of questions but in our celebrity-pastor driven church-culture where missional is the justification for all other behavior, it is almost impossible to be heard above the din.

I am thankful Skye Jethani is able to ask such a question with the volume needed and a skill which transcends my own.

Update: Part two is now up in which he points out that…

…the prescribed solution I hear in many ministry settings is to transform people from consumer Christians into activist Christians.

Brilliant analysis.

Part of the Story

My daughter was “reading” through our copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible stopping every so often and asking me a question. When she got to the end, she saw the words, “To be continued…” and was confused. She had seen the words in other books and knew it meant there were books where the story continued. Was there another Bible with more Bible stories? She told me she had hoped there were more Bible stories.

She was pretty disappointed when I told her the Bible was God’s story of all he has done to save us and there is only one Bible. But I then explained “To be continued…” means God is still writing his story of all he is doing.

“And you are part of this story.”

Her eyes lit up and a smile emerged from the confusion.

“Your growing belief and love for Jesus is part of the story that God will tell for all eternity…You know how we have talked about heaven and being with Jesus forever?…Well, there will be another book and your story of all God has done in you and through you will be in that book…You will be featured in that book.

“Really?! Coooool.”

It is cool.