Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Achieving Disagreement

Popular culture, politics, and religion so often seem trapped in a futile "us-them" way of thinking. People with competing beliefs and values are too busy maneuvering, pushing, and fighting for their own agendas to actually listen to each other. They are ready to denounce and caricature those who oppose their own views, but seemingly uninterested in understanding their opponents, much less getting to know them or care about them. They are quick to speak and slow to listen. Rarely will they grant that the opposition has a fair point or a just concern. Instead of having an honest disagreement and moving forward, they have a dismissive denial that makes it impossible for anything to progress beyond a shouting match.

I'm not sure where the term "achieving disagreement" first emerged, but it seems to be a helpful concept for people who are trying to move beyond the us-them trap. I first heard the expression on the American Public Media program, On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett. The program was about the future of marriage and was part of a series called "The Civil Conversations Project."

"Achieving Disagreement" is a phrase that describes what happens when those with opposing views actually listen to the other side, and listen attentively and respectfully enough to actually understand what the other is feeling, saying, and believing. It's a way of listening so thoroughly that each party is able to restate the position of the other in a way the other acknowledges to be accurate. The idea is that honest disagreement requires genuine understanding. I would add that having a respect and care for the other makes "achieving disagreement" all the better.

This week two people with very divergent values and beliefs have gone public with their own story of "achieving disagreement." Gay activist, Shane Windmeyer, and Chilck-Fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy, have forged a friendship even though they were first swept together in a national media culture war firestorm. A few days ago, the Huffington Post published a piece by Shane titled, Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A. I strongly suggest that you read every word.

Their story is helpful and hopeful, but it will likely not get as much press as the original Chick-Fi-Asco that blew up a year ago. I know that sounds pessimistic, but it seems that trouble always gets more viewers than a truce. Deep down, though, I must not really be a pessimist because I continue to hope for a day when a caring, honest, and humble approach to disagreements can be and will be recognized for the great achievement it is.


If achieving disagreement sounds like something you would like to be able to do, you might want to check out my previous post, The Importance of Listening, which includes a helpful seven-minute video with insights from philosopher Jacob Needleman.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday Words - White Eyes


In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he's restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it's over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he's done all he can.

I don't know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—

which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

"White Eyes" by Mary Oliver,
© Copyright 2002 by Mary Oliver.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Book Club Tonight (Session 2)

Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright is the current selection for my book club at Valley Christian Church. Our second session is tonight, Tuesday, January 29, 7:00pm. We'll be discussing Chapters 8 through 12. You can get all the details about this book club HERE.

No registration is required, but I would like to hear from you if you're planning to be there. If you have any questions, click here to send me an email.

From the Book Description:
“Jesus—the Jesus we might discover if we really looked,” explains Wright, “is larger, more disturbing, more urgent than we had ever imagined. We have successfully managed to hide behind other questions and to avoid the huge, world-shaking challenge of Jesus’s central claim and achievement. ...As the church faces the many challenges of the twenty-first century, Wright has presented a vision of Jesus that more than meets them. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Music - Start All Over Again

The Cactus Blossoms are back in the saddle again at the Turf Club, Mondays, 7:00-10:00pm. Did you know that tapping your toe to country swing is a great way to beat the winter blues? Well, then it's time you learned!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Make Us a Blessing

O Lord, help us to answer the call of our Savior Jesus Christ. Help us to seriously and readily seek your will for our lives. Help us, by our words and actions, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all people. Help us and the world around us to recognize the salvation he brings.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Help us to extend forgiveness to each other. And help us grow into a redemptive and healing community. Help us to have a saving and healing impact on the world around us.

O God, life in this world is more than we can face on our own. Help us to navigate our way through the many challenges and conflicts. Help us to live with integrity and care toward others in authentic Christian fellowship. Help our Valley community to be an instrument of your grace, your truth, and your peace. Make us a blessing to the world around us.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Smile - Bad Lip-Syncing

Thanks to the creative minds and crack research at Bad Lip Reading, we can all finally rest assured knowing that Beyonce was definitely NOT lip-syncing at the inauguration. See the evidence for yourself!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Food - FAGE Greek Yogurt

This is my favorite all-purpose Greek yogurt. I love it plain. I love it on potatoes. I love it with fresh fruit. I love it in tacos and burritos. I love it in chili. It goes almost anywhere I might use sour cream, or whipped cream, or cheese. It has a fantastic taste and texture. It goes with sweet or savory. Give it a try.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday Thinking - What It Means to Search

Last week on Marketplace Morning, there was an insightful essay by Nicholas Carr on how "the digital age has changed what it means to search." Carr is the author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

Carr offers some very perceptive analysis and I encourage you to listen to it. Here is an excerpt from the transcript to pique your interest:
These days, Google's search engine doesn’t push us outward so much as turn us inward. It gives us information that fits the pattern of behavior and thinking we’ve displayed in the past. It reinforces our biases rather than challenging them, and subverts the act of searching in its most meaningful sense.
There was a time when search engines opened new vistas for us. Now, they hold up a mirror to us, giving us back a reflection of ourselves. Search has become a tool for self-absorption. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Words - Keep Cold!

Good-bye, and Keep Cold
By Robert Frost

This saying good-bye on the edge of the dark
And cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don't want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don't want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don't want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn't be idle to call
I'd summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don't want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard's the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn't get warm.
"How often already you've had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below."
I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an axe—
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard's arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Tome - North Country

North Country: The Making of Minnesota by Mary Lethert Wingerd is a beautiful book I've been living with for a few weeks, and will continue to live with for a few months. It's a lot to take in, so I'm taking it nice and slow. Most days I read somewhere between three to ten pages. I'm currently finishing up the second chapter which begins with this paragraph:
As the eighteenth century dawned, the Upper Mississippi and the western Great Lakes were beyond the edge of European empires. Though geographers in London, Paris, and Madrid might redraw their maps of North America to reflect the spoils of European wars, in reality the Dakotas and Ojibwes were the masters of the land that would become Minnesota. Europeans who ventured into Indian country to reap the riches of its furs trod carefully on this alien soil. Their small parties of adventurers had no real power in the midst of thousands of Native people; moreover, they were weeks, if not months, away from their provisioning points. Survival itself, let alone success, depended on the goodwill of Indian trading partners. Thus, of necessity, traders schooled themselves in Native customs and , living among the Indians, adopted many of their ways.
I can't say enough about the quality of this book. Not only is it well-written and beautifully illustrated, but the binding, format, and paper quality are all first rate. This is a book made to enjoy and reference for years to come.

Wingerd's approach to the narrative is nuanced and thoughtful with a writing style that is both engaging and unassuming. The complexities of Minnesota history have often been obscured by romanticized legends, traditions, and stories told from the ethnocentric perspective of European settlers. Wingerd goes deeper to reveal the precolonial indigenous culture, their earliest contact with the French and the British, and the ensuing intricacies of economics, fur trade, treaties, intermarriage, cultural exchange, and politics.

Wingerd's text is accompanied by one-hundred-forty-one plates of illustrations, photos, maps, and works of art. Most of the illustration pages are printed in color on glossy high-quality paper. These illustrations, chosen and captioned by Kirsten Delegard, really make the book come alive as they depict the places, people, and events described in the narrative.

This book should be in the library of anyone who wants to know and understand Minnesota history. I'm very glad to have finally added it to mine.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Music - Pre-Order Leagues Now

Coming soon! Just a little over one week (January 29, 2013) until the release of You Belong Here, the first full-length album from Leagues.

Leagues is comprised of Tyler Burkum (guitar and vocals), Thad Cockrell (lead vocals), and Jeremy Lutito (drums). I've embedded another new track below. Give it a listen.

Visit the Leagues website, if you like what you hear, pre-order their new CD.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Shining Brightly

Almighty God, your Son, Jesus, is the true light than enlightens all people.

Help your church to be illuminated by your Word and Spirit. Help us to shine so brightly with the radiance of Christ's glory that he is known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth.

Forgive us our sins. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us. Give us the courage and the grace we need to restore relationships, heal brokenness, sacrifice our rights, and humble ourselves in order that we might experience forgiveness and reconciliation in our families, our friendships, our church, and our community.

O God, thank you for the freedom from sin you make available to us through Christ. Thank you for the saving and transforming power of your Holy Spirit. Renovate our hearts and minds. Help us to want what you want. Make us people who delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Smile - More Sage Advice

CBN media mogul Pat Robertson strikes again with brilliant advice for married women. Stephen Colbert reports the story. If you didn't laugh, you'd have to cry!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Family - SKYPIPER

Ever since they were just little guys, my twin nephews, Graham and Gabriel, have been making music together. Check out their band, SKYPIPER. If you're in the Omaha area, you should go to their show at the Waiting Room tonight.
Skypiper Website
Skypiper on Facebook
Skypiper on Daytrotter
Skypiper at the Waiting Room, Tonight 9pm

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Jesus and the Gospels

A couple nights ago, our Valley Book Club discussed the first seven chapters of N. T. Wright's book, Simply Jesus. It was a lot to cover and the 90 minutes just flew by. It would be nice if we could have an hour-long discussion of each and every chapter, but time and schedules just won't permit.

I have such high hopes for the participants of this reading group. Maybe, with Wright's help, we will all be enthused and challenged to see Jesus in deeper and more meaningful ways. Much of contemporary Christian teaching and experience is so reductionistic that it actually misses the point. The depth of the New Testament gospels are reduced to mere preparation for Pauline theology. God's work in the world gets reduced to forgiveness of sin. Heaven gets reduced and distorted into an escape or reward, and the list could go on and on.

Who is Jesus, really? What has he done and what is he doing? And why does it matter?

I like what Wright says in the video embedded below:
If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what grief is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what grief is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you're not just a spectator, but you're actually part of the drama which has him as the central character.
If you're interested in thinking about Jesus and open to rethinking some of the limited and oversimplified perspectives you may have about him, I encourage you to read Simply Jesus and if you're able, join our next book club discussion.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday Words - The Wind

There's a dry wind blowing a tumbleweed–
My heart, my soul.
There's a storm-tossed ship on a restless sea–
My heart, my soul.
There's a spinning arm on a weather vane–
My heart, my soul.
There's the aftermath of a hurricane–
My heart, my soul.

The Wind wills, the Wind blows;
I can hear it rushing through the trees.
The Wind comes, the Wind goes;
It's impossible for me to see,
But I feel its power,
I can feel it moving all around me.

There's a sound of chimes through the back screen door–
My heart, my soul.
There's a crashing wave on a distant shore–
My heart, my soul.
There's a white cloud dancing across the sky–
My heart, my soul.
Red and yellow leaves learning how to fly–
My heart, my soul.

The Wind wills, the Wind blows;
I can hear it rushing through the trees.
The Wind comes, the Wind goes;
It's impossible for me to see,
But I feel its power,
I can feel it moving all around me.

There are rolling waves in the golden grain–
My heart, my soul.
There's a windmill spinning above the plain–
My heart, my soul.
There's a line of clothes hanging out to dry–
My heart, my soul.
There's an eagle hovering in the sky–
My heart, my soul.

The Wind wills, the Wind blows;
I can hear it rushing through the trees.
The Wind comes, the Wind goes;
It's impossible for me to see,
But I feel its power,
I can feel it moving all around me.

“The Wind” words and music by Dave Burkum, from So Far to Go.
© Copyright 1993 by Dave Burkum.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday Tome - The End of Sexual Identity

I'm working my way through a long reading list as part of my ongoing commitment to give careful attention to the intersection of Christian faith and issues related to homosexuality. The book I completed most recently is The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are by Jenell Williams Paris. This book prompts the reader to challenge cultural and personal paradigms.  It covers a lot of ground in its brief 144 pages, and, as a help for those who may want to read and discuss the book in a group, includes an appendix with discussion questions for each chapter.

Paris, as a cultural anthropologist, approaches the subject at a starting point more fundamental than most current discussions. She questions the contemporary "sexual identity framework" and critiques the very categories of homosexual and heterosexual as being social-cultural constructs. I very much appreciate this approach as it considers personhood as primary to human being over and opposed to sexual desires, attractions, and behaviors. Paris rightly points out how recent and unhelpful it is for notions of personal identity and fulfillment to be defined by sexual attraction or experience.

Jamie Gates, director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma Nazarene University, has this helpful commentary about The End of Sexual Identity.
Jenell Paris has produced a provocative and astute diagnosis of our situation in the U.S.--living in 'an oversexualized culture with an undersexualized spirituality.' She refuses to argue in broad generalizations and to remain content with the polarized categories that Christian reflections on sex and sexuality so often produce. As a Christian cultural anthropologist she digs below the surface and brings a sophisticated interpretation of the cultural complexity of out sexual lives. Her most piercing contribution is in challenging the 'sexual identity framework' itself that traps both Christian and non-Christian reflection on sexuality. She exposes just how paralyzed Christians become by the categories borrowed from the cultural waters we swim in, particularly the socially constructed and historically recent categories of 'heterosexual' and 'homosexual.' Dr. Paris' insights will surprise and challenge readers from seemingly incompatible perspectives on these issues.

Here are a few brief excerpts from the book:
Contemporary Christian dialogue about sexuality is limited because it is framed by contemporary Western notions of sexual identity. It seems virtually impossible to find fresh ways to move forward when our imaginations are bound by the culture that shaped them. For example, Christians often become absorbed in either affirming or negating the morality of same-sex sex and related issues such as ordination of gay and lesbians and same-sex marriage. While these issues certainly are important, we must also address the underlying problem that drives these disputes. These "fixed position" debates are binary: firs, framing the issue in terms of homosexuality and heterosexuality, and then asking for only affirmation or negation of same-sex sex, without more complex dialogue about human sexuality and Christian discipleship. [ p. 27]
...Christian theology about homosexuality, for example, borrows that sexual identity category from American culture and then interprets and evaluates it with Scripture (which was written in various cultural contexts), and with Christian theology from various places and times. We might like to believe that religion and culture are as separate as meat, potatoes and vegetables on a picky child's plate, but that's impossible. Culture provides the words, practices, sounds, buildings, musical instruments and so on, with which we make our religious lives. [p. 29]
...if we as Christians are going to abstain from linking sexual feelings directly to identity, then we need to generate new ways (or, better yet, rejuvenate old ways) of understanding desire, identity, and the relationship between them. Sexual holiness is an invitation to renew our stewardship of sexuality by first viewing human beings as beloved. This view of identity beckons us to treat sexual desire with care, instead of badgering it with judgment, repression, or cure. [p. 94]
Whether it is homosexuality, heterosexuality, LGBTQ or another variation, the sexual identity framework is always limited because it selects certain elements of sexuality as identity-constituting and downplays other important dimensions. [pp. 94] ... The rest of a person's desires--which are sometimes the stronger parts, such as religious devotion or marital commitment--are neglected. [p. 95]
The next book up on my reading queue for this topic is TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christian Debate, by Justin Lee. I'll post about that once I've read it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Children of God

O Father, when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, you proclaimed him to be your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Today we ask that you would help all of us who have been baptized into his Name to live as your children. Help us to keep the covenant we have made with you, and help us declare with our words and our deeds that Jesus is truly our Lord and Savior.

Forgive us our sins. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

O God, thank you for the love you have lavished on us, that we might be called your children. Help us to live as your children, to display your glory, and be a testimony of the difference you make in our lives. And as you are making a difference in us, help us in turn to make a difference in our world. Help us to be instruments of your saving grace and peace.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Family - Happy Birthday, Sara!

In our family, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are both birthdays. My son, Tyler, has a December 31st birthday, and New Year's Day is my daughter-in-law Sara's birthday. Because of family schedules and travels, we weren't able to celebrate Sara's on January 1st. Instead, we'll be having a little shindig tomorrow night! I'm looking forward to it already.

Happy belated birthday, Sara! We love you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Vulnerability and Belonging

In my current teaching series, RE:BIRTH, I am asserting that love is the precursor to faith. Before a person can understand or experience what Jesus called "being born again," there must be freedom and space for the "wind to blow wherever it pleases." I believe that in order for the Spirit ("the wind") to bring a person to the place of spiritual rebirth that questions must be nurtured, imaginations stirred, hearts touched, welcome extended, trust earned.

In my first sermon of the series (January 6 - "Belonging before Belief"), I spoke about how a church that wants to help people come to faith must first help people experience a sense of belonging. Belonging precedes belief. Before we Christians try to influence people, we must first be sure to identify with them.

It's worth noting that the importance of belonging is not just something for people new to our church community. It's something much more than being friendly to new people. For true community to grow and mature, we must continually foster the sense of belonging, relationship, and connection. Some people have been going to church for a long time, and yet feel very little connection. They do not feel known, heard, loved, or accepted. Spiritual growth cannot take place in isolation, and disconnection, therefore, is a barrier to not only spiritual belief but also to spiritual maturity. Christian community is the crucible for faith and faithfulness.

During my sermon last Sunday, I referenced a very popular TED Talk video by social researcher Brene Brown. The talk is called "The Power of Vulnerability" and it has been viewed over 7,000,000 times. If you haven't yet seen it, I highly recommend that you take the time to do so. In her talk, Professor Brown makes the case for how shame undermines belonging and why vulnerability and connection are vital to wellness and being. I've posted the video on this blog before, but I'm posting it again today as a reminder and a help to those of you who may want to check it out.

Next Sunday at Valley (January 13), I'll be presenting "Relationship before Religion" (John 4:7-10), Part 2 of my RE:BIRTH teaching series.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Wednesday Words - Any Morning


Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

"Any Morning" by William Stafford from The Way It Is
© Graywolf Press, 1999.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Simply Jesus (Part 3)

Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright is the selection for my next book club at Valley Christian Church. Our first session is a week from today, Tuesday, January 15, 7:00pm. We'll be discussing the Preface through Chapter 7. You can get all the details about my book club HERE.

Below is an excerpt from the final chapter of the Simply Jesus. I invite you to read the book with me and participate in the book club if you can. You are more than welcome to join us even if you're only able to attend one or two of the sessions. And don't stay away just because you haven't managed to get all the reading in prior to the session. Maybe our discussion will prompt you to catch up.
From Simply Jesus, p. 217...
All kingdom work is rooted in worship. Or, to put it the other way around, worshipping the God we see at work in Jesus is the most politically charged act we can ever perform. Christian worship declares that Jesus is Lord and that therefore, by strong implication, nobody else is. What's more, it doesn't just declare it as something to be believed, like the fact that the sun is hot or the sea wet. It commits the worshipper to allegiance, to following this Jesus, to being shaped and directed by him. Worshipping the God we see in Jesus orients our whole being, our imagination, our will, our hopes, and our fears away from the world where Mars, Mammon, and Aphrodite (violence, money, and sex) make absolute demands and punish anyone who resists. It orients us to a world in which love is stronger than death, the poor are promised the kingdom, and chastity (whether married or single) reflects the holiness and faithfulness of God himself. Acclaiming Jesus as Lord plants a flag that supersedes the flags of the nations, however "free" or "democratic" they may be. It challenges both the tyrants who think they are, in effect, divine and the "secular democracies" that have effectively become, if not divine, at least ecclesial, that is, communities that are trying to do and be what the church was supposed to do and be, but without recourse to the one who sustains the church's life. Worship creates--or should create, if it is allowed to be truly itself--a community that marches to a different beat, that keeps in step with a different Lord.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Monday Music - The Shins

Intriguing song. Terrific voice. Phantasmagorical video.

Hope your week gets off to a good start today.
Don't let it be a drag, it's only life (wink).

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Epiphany

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to those wise people who were seeking him. In the same way, we ask you to lead. We seek to know you by faith.

Make us aware of your presence, and help us see your glory in Christ Jesus. And help your Church to display your glory as we are transformed and led by your Spirit.

Forgive us our sins. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

O God, We thank you for your goodness to those who seek you. Give us the humility and the wisdom to seek you above all else. Give us the perspective and discernment to know what is true and what is real. Deepen our understanding of life. Help us to know what matters most.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Saturday Smile - And the Winners Are...

I'm tickled to be one of the limerick contest winners over on the Tony Jones Blog at Patheos. There were so many great entries that I'm pleasantly surprised to be one of the winners.

In recent months, Tony has launched a couple of other limerick contests where the winners received books. Good fun and friendly competition ensued.

In this most recent limerick challenge, the winners were to receive boxed sets of Theologian Trading Cards. There must be a lot of theology nerds in Tony's audience because this time around, with that nerdy carrot dangled before us, the competition level went way up. You can check out all the limericks here.

So thanks, Theoblogy, and congratulations to the other winners!

Here's the winning limerick I submitted about N. T. Wright:
The Kingdom’s begun, Jesus stated,
And Tom Wright says we should celebrate it
As we work and we pray
Toward the Full Kingdom Day–
Eschatology inaugurated!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Friday Family - You Belong Here

As many of my readers know, my son, Tyler, is a member of the Nashville-based band, Leagues. So the next big music event on my radar is the January 29, 2013 release of You Belong Here, the band's first full-length album. Leagues is comprised of Tyler Burkum (guitar and vocals), Thad Cockrell (lead vocals), and Jeremy Lutito (drums). Give a listen to the track embedded below to get an idea of what the boys are up to.

Visit the Leagues website, check out their music, and, if you like what you hear, pre-order their new CD.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Thurs. Thinking - Interpreting Hebrew Scriptures

A week from tomorrow evening, I'll be getting together with a small group of friends from church who want to talk about Christian perspectives toward the Old Testament. When Christians actually start taking the Bible seriously enough to actually read it, they find themselves full of questions. What does this mean for me? How am I supposed to understand it and interpret it? How do Old Testament Scriptures fit into the lives of Christians? What do all these laws, stories, places, wars, songs, and expectations have to do with Christian faith, life, and mission?

One of the things I hope my friends and I will get to do on Friday evening is read through a helpful article by Peter Enns called, "Hey, Get Away from My Bible!" -- Christian Appropriation of a Jewish Bible. I will also be encouraging them to read Simply Jesus, by N. T. Wright, the selection for my next Pastor's Book Club. This book is helpful for understanding Jesus and Scripture with some awareness of a first century Jewish context.

Below are a few excerpts from the Peter Enns article I mentioned. Enns is currently on the faculty at Eastern University teaching courses in Old and New Testaments. His interests include Old Testament Theology, Biblical Theology, Wisdom Literature (esp. Ecclesiastes), the New Testament's use of the Old Testament, Second Temple literature, and the general issue of how ancient Scripture intersects with modern thought.
The first Christians handled their Bible in a way that helped them make sense of this astounding series of events surrounding the first Easter. This is important to understand. The foundation for what they did with the OT was what happened in Palestine in the opening decades of (what we call) the 1st century. In view of the climactic and incontestable event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the first Christians were now pouring over their own Bible to understand how this new event could be understood in light of Israel’s ancient text, and, conversely, how Israel’s ancient text is now to be understood in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The question of biblical interpretation revolved around the resurrection of Christ. The complex, intricate, sometimes gripping, sometimes puzzling way in which the NT writers handled their Bible is anchored in the fundamental Christian conviction that Jesus is the gracious, amazing conclusion to Israel’s story.
- - - 
The Jews of Jesus’ day were reading their own Scripture in a way that was driven by these changing circumstances. Even though they came back to the land, they were never really free as they were before the exile. They were subject first to the Persians, then Greeks, and then Romans. They were not ruled by the Davidic king, who had a “torah under one arm and a sword in the other,” who would faithfully lead them as God’s pure people. They were in their own land, but they really weren’t—as long as they had foreign rulers telling them what to do in their own land that God had given them.
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By the time we get to Jesus and the NT writers, Jews had already had a pretty long history of asking themselves, “In view of these dramatically changing circumstances, how do we connect to our own ancient texts?” To put the matter more pointedly, “How are we now the people of God, in view of all that has happened? Indeed, are we still the people of God? What does that even mean?”
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The first Christians were also Jews and they were engaged in another attempt at Jewish appropriation—although of a VERY different sort—since now one’s true identity as the people of God is centered not on what had been Israel’s defining markers, such as Torah, land, temple, and king, but in Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to bring all of these things, and more, to their proper focal point.
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The particulars of Jewish handling of their own Bible in view of changing circumstances is a fascinating, enriching, and challenging topic for Christians, but this is not the place to rehearse all of that. What is important here is the general point, that the failure of many Jews of the day to accept the Christian appropriation of the Hebrew Bible is not because they were sticking to the “real meaning” of the Hebrew Bible that the Christians were handling in such a wacky fashion.
A better way to think of is it is that there were two divergent groups of people who claimed to represent the true “next stage” of Israel’s history as God’s chosen people. For Jews, their answer was their continued attempts to articulate what it means to “be a Jew” in a world context that, simply put, their own Bibles left no room for—a people in diaspora, i.e., scattered, without a true homeland, without a fully implemented religious and political structure. For the other group of Jews—who only later came to include Gentiles and be called “Christians”—the final answer was found not in a more clever and competing way of handing their Bibles, but in their belief that now, in Jesus, God was giving a fresh definition to what it meant to be “the people of God.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wednesday Words - January 2013 vs. 1795

Things aren't looking great for 2013. Challenges are profound, injustices abound, and pessimism all around. Still, I would never trade the coming year for the past. I don't think the old days were any better (Ecclesiastes 7:10). I trust God to bless, sustain, and direct us as we seek him in the coming year. Happy January!

January, 1795
By Mary Robinson

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.

Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Kooser for Kids

Last Friday morning, we took our grandsons (and their parents) for a family field trip to the Wild Rumpus Book Store. We headed to the Linden Hills neighborhood, and, as always, had a fun adventure. We saw a wise lizard, a cat in an old storybook chair, a fancy chicken, and, of course, LOTS of great books. If you have a child between the ages of 3 and 10, do yourself a favor and schedule a morning to take them to Wild Rumpus.

We found some great books for the little boys, and, unsurprisingly, we also found a picture book for the old boy too. I got a copy of House Held Up by Trees by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser and the artist, Jon Klassen. Kooser's writing is simple and thoughtful, as expected, and Klassen's illustrations are beautiful and painstakingly attentive to the text.
Book Description: When the house was new, not a single tree remained on its perfect lawn to give shade from the sun. The children in the house trailed the scent of wild trees to neighboring lots, where thick bushes offered up secret places to play. When the children grew up and moved away, their father, alone in the house, continued his battle against blowing seeds, plucking out sprouting trees. Until one day the father, too, moved away, and as the empty house began its decline, the trees began their approach. At once wistful and exhilarating, this lovely, lyrical story evokes the inexorable passage of time — and the awe-inspiring power of nature to lift us up.
On a personal note, the book reminds me of the little house where my Grandma and Grandpa Taylor lived in Ladysmith, Wisconsin--the only place we ever visited them during my childhood years. The place was magical for me with its chicken coop, bee hives, a couple old dogs in a barn, a huge flower garden, an even bigger vegetable garden, and grandpa's Standard Oil delivery truck parked out front. We spent our days playing in the nearby fields abundant with wild strawberries, the wooded hills, and marshy ditches which were usually roiling with minnows and pollywogs.

About ten years ago, I was on a trip that passed right through Ladysmith, so I decided to take a few minutes to look for the little homestead where my grandparents had lived. When I found it, I was saddened to find a scene much like one described in the final pages of House Held Up by Trees. Time passes, seasons come and go, and tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow slowly but surely creeps in and takes over our petty little spaces.