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Preview: Incarnational Orthopraxy

Incarnational Orthopraxy

"Liturgical acts are not unincarnated but set in the midst of real life." -Oscar Romero

Updated: 2014-10-01T00:39:23.359-07:00


Check this out!


I've gotten so terrible about writing on this blog. But that's about to change. Ladies and gentlemen, if anyone is actually interested, I present Matt's Nerdy Book Blog. The site is still pretty basic, but I am already posting on it and plan to continue doing so on a much more regular basis. My goal is to write at least one post on every book I read, which means there should be one or two posts a week. See ya there!


Some Recent Books


I now blog when I am not bike riding, watching my daughter, cleaning, or spending my blessed one hour per night with my wife when Eleanor is asleep. Which means, hardly ever. But here goes...

Lately I've managed to read a few good one:

1. I'm almost done with Thomas Pynchon's Slow Learner. It's obvious from the intro that he doesn't think much of the work, but it's an easier introduction to one of the most difficult writers alive today. I hadn't read a book of short stories for a while, so that's nice as well.

2. Last week I finished Sarah Vowell's Assasination Vacation. Great book, especially if you feel a little pathetic when it comes to knowing your U.S. history. Interestingly, Vowell spends the last few pages talking about faith, which has nothing to do with the rest of the book. I found this in Omnivores Dilemma as well; these strange endings having to do with God even thought the rest of the book is on a subject that is seemingly unrelated. I would love to blog about this, but probably won't have the time. Anyways, it was a fun, good book.

3. David Sedaris' new one, When You are Engulfed in Flames is fun, but definitely not his best book.

4. Falling Man by Don Delillo is brilliant. I'd been meaning to start reading his work, and happened upon this one as an intro. He is a genius, and it is a painful look into one family in the wake of 9/11.

5. I read Starlight and Storm by Gaston Rebuffat. It was fun, even though I am definitely not a mountain climber.

6. I am nearly done with Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. What a wonderful book! I don't know why I'd never heard of it sooner...

7. Oh yeah, I also read Silences by Tillie Olson, and A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. They were both important books for their time, but not so fascinating to me to read now. But still, I don't regret looking into them.

Okay, I think that's it. Talk to you sometime in the far-off or near future.


Oh yeah...


...I forgot to blog for a few weeks. Oops.The truth is that I am beginning to rethink how and why I blog. I was thinking of erasing it all together, but instead I might start to transform it. Okay, the reality is that it has slowly been changing for over a year anyways. I guess it just changes as I change.Anywho, the content of this blog was originally 90% theology/church and 10% on life and books. Basically, I think I will be flipping these statistics around starting now. It's funny, but now that I am done working in a church I just don't care about a lot of the things I cared about at the time. I don't want to argue or gripe or feel let down about any of that any more. I want to focus on what is good and beautiful and true, so I'm going to spend a lot less time talking about the church (yes, that statement was meant to be provocative) and more time talking about life and books.LIFE: I just finished week three of landscaping. It is hard work. Some days it's a lot of fun. Other days it makes me grumpy. But every day I go home feeling like I have accomplished something. And, to sound archaic, I feel like a man. It is refreshing to do manual labor rather than sit in an office all day staring at a computer. Nobody at work knows I have a masters degree either, which is especially fun to keep under my hat. I spend my days thinking about a variety of things, though two recurring themes are stewardship (I wonder if well manicured lawns are what Genesis was referring to...) and Karl Marx and the absurdity of class distinctions (working hard to take care of rich people's stuff, while they lay out in the sun and look at the ocean...I shouldn't have read Nickle and Dimed right before I started this job).Being a dad keeps my non-work hours especially busy. I come home from work and parent for most of the evening until Eleanor goes down. After she's asleep we clean up the house a bit, and on a good night I may get a full hour with Effie before bed. I don't read as much anymore, or watch as many movies, and rarely call people back, but it is a blast. Parenting is amazing. I regret not starting earlier.I've been riding my bike to work at least four days a week (25 miles round trip). Plus, I go on long rides every Saturday morning. Last Saturday I did the three steepest hills I know in Bellingham. By the third, my legs were shaking so bad I couldn't go any further. But I need to keep pushing, because I only have two months until the Baker Hill Climb. I just found out they planned it to have 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Which translates into: much suckiness. I can't wait.BOOKS: I recently read The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louis De Bernieres. He also wrote Corelli's Mandolin and is one of the best storytellers alive today. I think I might even put him in my top five favorite all-time writers. This story is amazing and tells the truth about South America in a completely fictional narrative. If you want to know what that means, read the book and be blow away.Currently I am almost half through The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It is fabulous, especially for a former comic book enthusiast like myself (yes, I just admitted that I like to read comics). This is, quite frankly, a GOOD book. What more can I say?Also, I am making my way through David Sedaris' new one, When You are Engulfed in Flames. Of course it's great; it's Sedaris! And lastly, I just started The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'm only 10 pages in, and it's already been quite thought-provoking.That's it for now. I'll try to put something up again a little quicker than my current blogging rate.Peace,Matt[...]

Matt News


Okay, so I haven't really been posting much lately. The truth is that I've been job hunting, fathering, and not really putting much thought into anything else. But tonight while I have a few minutes, I'll share what's new with me:

  • I got a job. It starts next Tuesday. The only issue: it's landscaping and I have a back that likes to go out. This should be interesting.
  • Sunday will be my first father's day. Cool.
  • I wrote another article for the silhouette page, and it should be up by tomorrow.
  • I signed-up for the Mt Baker Hill Climb (Ride 542). It is a brutal hundred mile bike ride and I am pumped! I'm going to climb some hills outside of Yakima on Saturday to help me train.
  • I traded-in some books and got a stack of sweet used ones last week. I'll fill you in as I read them.
  • Yesterday I almost had a fateful meeting with Bill Lincoln, who founded and runs CRI. It didn't work out and we are now rescheduling, but I tell you: Google search CRI and see for yourself how cool this guy is.

That's the news from me. I'll try to blog something worthwhile soon.



Kim and Kipling


The other day I randomly picked up Rudyard's Kiplings somewhat famous book Kim. First of all, my copy happens to be an amazing hardback from 1901, with some beautiful artwork included within it and a very extraordinary cover. I bought it at a book sale for 25 cents a few years ago.

The story, at least 100 pages in, is about a young Indian boy named Kim who decides to join a Tibetan monk/yogi who is traveling through India on a pilgrimage of sorts. I am really, truly enjoying the story. Beyond the story itself, here are some of the things I have been thinking about as I read:
  1. Kipling doesn't seem as racist as I had been told he was through the years. In fact, he seems far ahead of his time. There have hardly been any white characters at all!
  2. It's so cool to see somebody writing about Tibetans at a time when few had heard or likely even cared about Tibet. There were no Brad Pitt movies about it yet, or Free Tibet stickers on the backs of cars. I can't help but think somebody like Kipling did a lot to open the eyes of people in the West to how vast our world really is.
  3. There is an amazing sort of plurality in Kipling's India. Muslims and Hindus worship at the same shrines, and everybody is anxious to learn from a Tibetan holy man; especially the religious leaders! I'm fascinated by this, especially knowing how tensions have been high there for a number of years where divisions lie along religious grounds.
  4. Last night an old friend was telling me how they are planning to go to India on a religious pilgrimage of sorts and it made me think of The Brothers K and The Darjeeling Limited, both of which bring up a lot of questions about spiritual seeking in India. I wonder if this book will do the same? I wonder what my friend will discover? I wonder what the Beatles really discovered when they went there?
I'll try to let you know what I think of the book when I finish... Maybe I'll read all the Mowgli stories afterwards.


Martinson Church Tour '08 (2)


Last Sunday I finally bit the bullet and went to a Mennonite church service. Why am I saying "bit the bullet," you ask? I say that because I was very nervous that I would get together with my fellow Mennonites and discover that although I agree with them theologically, I feel weird or awkward around them. In a word, I was afraid of being let down.

Effie, Eleanor and I somehow managed to make it on time to Birch Bay Bible Church on Sunday for their one service. There were a lot of elderly people, but here's the thing: it actually had a fairly impressive mixture of young and old! Aaaaaaaand, the first thing they did was recognize a member of their congregation who was moving. She was not a pastor, elder or whatever, just a member of the family who apparently was worthwhile enough to stop the all-important Sunday service and recognize for who she was... What that told me: this church truly cares more about the people than the show.

The music, powerpoint and message were not as well produced as what I am used to, and I was thankful. The pastor who shared hit it on the head in his sermon: their priority is on following Christ, not entertaining themselves. Amen.

I really don't know if we'll find ourselves back there again, but either way I'm glad we checked-out our first Mennonite church. Who knows what next Sunday may hold...


New Article By Me


I posted a new article on the silhouette website. Check it out.


Odd Jobs


Being unemployed for more than two weeks now, I have started actually doing some bits of random work for friends. Last weekend I hosted at The Little Cheerful, an awesome little breakfast place in downtown B'ham, for one day. Today I sanded wood floors for my friend Colin, and am helping finish up tomorrow. I gotta say, I really enjoy this kind of living. These bits of work are a blast, and dare I say it, actual fun work! Too bad it probably won't pay for a house payment/insurinance for an infant. Alas.

Still...I am unemployed and loving it!


Martinson Church Tour '08


Last Sunday Effie and I began our Church Tour '08. I decided just now (without consulting her first) that we needed to call it a tour, so it felt like we were cool rock stars rather than nerdy Christians. Anyways, for two Sundays in a row we have gone to church services in places that are not "our home church" as people would say, and it has been an thought-provoking experience already. Here's what I am discovering so far:
  • I love getting up in front of people and talking, but am annoyed when I have to listen to somebody else do it. What kind of messed-up stuff does this say about me? Honestly, I just want to push back a little when other people are talking, to ask questions, throw in my two cents, disagree, or whatever. But when I'm stuck in a seat as a listener, I get frustrated. Worst of all is that this is partly for my own learning, and partly me and my ego wanting attention. Sad, huh?
  • I am realizing that there is probably no church group that I agree with 100% theologically. Does this say something bad about me? About them? Or am I supposed to pull something else entirely from all of this? Or do theological opinions really even matter that much?
  • I like being anonymous. I slip in, talk to a few friends, and slip out, without having any responsibility or conversations with people who corner me and want to talk about nothing for 20 minutes. This is a horrible thing to say, but I'm being honest at least.
  • I really have no clue what the point of a Sunday gathering is! I am not bashing it, or even disagreeing with it, but honestly I am just kind of at a loss on the whole subject. I've heard the arguments (have taught them a million times), but am still a bit confused on all of this stuff.
I'll try to start giving weekly Church Tour updates, but no promises. And no, I will not be giving some sort of church review like somebody does for restraunts or movies. That is just wrong. This is more for me to explore my own experience and shifting views of Church as I visit different expressions of the Church throughout Whatcom County.

Oh, and PS, today I visited Ron's church (aka, the Brown Kid) and had some fun talking with him and a few other old friends. And last week we went to Oikos church, which was pretty cool, but is also an Acts 29 church, so I have a feeling I will not be calling it home.


Current and Recent Reads


Although I have been trying to be more consistent with this blog over the course of the past few months, I realize that my posts can be somewhat sporadic. Although I now have more time on my hands (view last post if you don't know what I'm talking about), I will say as an excuse that my wife and I still live in the mid-90's, in other words...we use dial-up internet. Which keeps me off the "information superhighway" most days. But I do get on and do one thing all the time: I update the Current and Recent Reads section of this blog.

The CARR is meant to show you what is influencing me currently, to alert loyal blog readers/lurkers (you know who you are!) to books that they might find interesting, and maybe even to generate some discussion. Also, being the total spaz I am, it is there to give a shout-out (told you I'm stuck in the 90's) to some great titles and authors. Lastly, you might notice that there are always at least four books on the list. That's how I read. I love overlapping books and seeing the random interconnections between them. That is also why I read a wide variety of books.

Currently I am slowly moving through Prayer by Han Urs Von Balthasar. It is a profound work of spiritual contemplation by one the biggest Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. Eugene Peterson and Scot McKnight mentioned it at different points in their works, so I figured it was worth a read.

At the same time I continue to slowly press through Gerhard Von Rad's Old Testament Theology. I became interested in this work after realizing how often Walter Brueggemann cited it. It has been intense, but worth the effort (though it will ultimately only cause me to sound even more heretical when pushed on my view of scripture).

I am also reading Martin Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics. I found this book cheap and used, and nabbed it right away. I first read Heidegger in a class I took from Carl Raschke, and realized that I needed to know Heidegger if I was ever going to understand post-modern thinkers. I started into this book as my last Heidegger title before I get into his major work, Being and Time. Yes, I know he was a Nazi. I'm not saying I like the guy, just that I am trying to gain some understanding of what he was saying.

In my spare moments I am also working through Indian Killer, one of Sherman Alexie's least impressive books, but still a worthwhile read. As always, I would say that every PNW resident should read at least one Alexie book. He has shook my world and my understanding of the compexity of dealing with the Other.

Welcome to the Desert of the Real is the first Slavoj Zizek work I have read. I am half-way through and I am amazed by it and very interesting in Zizek's work. Great...another person to read...

Deadeye one of two Kurt Vonnegut books I checked-out from the local library. Vonnegut is quite possibly the best author from the second half of the twentieth century. I am working on reading everything he ever wrote. I honestly suggest you being doing the same.




Today is day three of being without a job. The most commonly heard phrase in my house during those past three days: "this is great...we should never work again." I have gone for a long bike ride every day, went for long walks around Bellingham, watched two movies (including Juno, finally, which lived-up to it's praise), read, spent time with my wife and daughter, spent time with friends, rode my skateboard, taken both cars in for long overdue work, and did some bicycle repair as well. I feel as if I let go of the world and regained my soul. It is marvelous. Honestly I am tempted to get a part-time job, sell my house, and choose a life of freedom over work. It is great!


Last Day


Yes, today is officially my last day of work. It is weird. I am trying to finish cleaning out my office, write a truly inspiring final message, and somehow process the strange reality that the last decade of my life is coming to a very definite close, with no idea of what is next. Wow.


Very Little, Very Late


(image) The theological implications of the two cartoons above may or may not be implying something from this blogger...
In a typically *brilliant* move, W has proposed voluntary emission cuts by big businesses within the next 20 years as the way to really put a stop to global warming. Big business volunteering to do something for the rest of the world. Hmm. I'm sure they'll be all over that, since they are our friends and protectors. Sarcasm never comes out as well on a blog... To be fair, I am tainted, as I have always been anything but a fan of this particular person. In fact, he represents some of the worst things I see in everyday life. Nevertheless, vague goals about some far-off goal are not even worth bringing up in the first place. This is the political version of cheap grace, trying to promote change without sacrifice. Why is it that nobody in our nation wants to sacrifice a darn thing? Why is it that we continue to live within this reality and pretend that it doesn't matter how horrific our decisions and lifestyles really are for future generations? Will somebody please let my daughter know that I tried really hard to fight against the ignorant stupidity of this generation for her sake?
P.S. - If there are any of those Christians reading this who think global warming is an Al Gore conspiracy, could you do me a favor and please not even bother leaving a comment? Thanks.

Voltaire Quote


"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

Book Review: The Writing Life


I've been meaning to write this for over a week, but life has been extremely hectic (week long mission trip, quitting my job, and planning a massive 30th birthday extravaganza, among other things). But without further ado, I give you...another book review.
The Writing Life is typical Dillard. How so? Every line is a gem, but not in an easily definable, cliched way. She does not reduce life's complexity into naive, simplistic answers, and the same can be said for her description of the writing life in particular. The truth is, I am writing this review not because I want to review the book, but so I can convince you to literally read every single book Annie Dillard has ever written. If I had to read only one person's writings for my entire life, it would be hers. She is that good. If you have not read her already, you need to leave your computer right now and buy or check-out one of her books right now. If you have already read her, you know what I'm talking about.
Here's a couple of my favorite parts of this offering:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing... There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading - that is a good life.
Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death catch us so by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking. We should amass half dressed in long lines like tribesmen and shake gourds at each other, to wake up; instead we watch television and miss the show... And if we are reading for these things, why would anyone read books with advertising slogans and brand names in them? Why would anyone write such books? Commercial intrusion has overrun and crushed, like the last glaciation, a humane landscape. The new landscape and its climate put metaphysics on the run.

Book Review: A New Earth


Somebody I know recently loaned me this book and asked me to read it and tell them what I think. So I did. And it turned out to be a very interesting experience that told me more about myself than I expected it to. Here's my thoughts:.A New Earth is Eckhart Tolle's follow-up to his book The Power of Now. The book has gotten a lot of press and is selling like crazy, thanks in large part to the power of the Oprah cult. But regardless of the how's, this is a book that has to be discussed and understood, because people all over our country are reading it, and I'm sure this includes a fair amount of church attenders..A main focus of the book is the ego, and our self-obsession. So far so good. Much of the book focuses on this and for that I am thankful. Tolle is right that we, especially Westerners, are far too self-centered, if not self-obsessed. With a consistent mixture of misinterpretations of both Buddha and Jesus, Tolle tells his reader to let go of self, selfhood, etc. But this is the limit to the letting go for Tolle..For Jesus, letting go of self was for the sake of grabbing hold of God and caring for our neighbor. For Tolle, letting go is for the self. In other words, it is still all about oneself and one's spiritual awakening. Tolle's premise is that if everybody does this, the world will be a better place, mankind will reach a new stage in its evolution, and we will enter into a new earth. Sounds nice..So the big problems are these:.1. This is Platonic spirituality, where the forms rule and disembodied spirituality rules over here-and-now, Eugene Peterson types of spirituality. It is pie-in-the-sky, mixing religions, spirituality with no take home and no challenge for real selflessness that causes sacrifice in the here and now. In other words, it has to do with feeling good on the inside without having to neccesarily give up our possessions or our live for our God. It is gnosticism or zen, both of which Tolle even claims are the correct forms of Christianity and Buddhism, whereas the other ways are the results of people who "got it wrong.".2. This also screams out Nietzsche and his Darwin-inspired notion of the superman. I am no Nietzsche scholar, so I always tread lightly in this area, but the correlations seemed all too obvious. The letting go or twisting of old forms of morality and religion to make way for a highly evolved sort of person who looks a lot like the author. It is self-centered to the highest degree and causes us to see our selves as the highest thing to aspire to in this world..3. This is a short-cut religion. That is always the most disturbing thing to me. Whereas real spirituality is slow, quiet, often taking a lifetime, this is basically your five steps to enlightenment (or 1-2-3 sanctification if you like). A person taking this book seriously could come to the end and declare themselves officially enlightened. But they are not. Not in any true sense. I'm sorry, but to be blunt, Oprah is not walking around showing-up the Buddha, Jesus and the Dalai Lama in the department of wisdom and sage-like abilities. Nor is Tolle or any of the Oprah-cult members of our sad nation. Why do we treat religion like we treat our food? Why do we want it our way, right away, without realizing the violence we do to our own faith traditions in the process?.4. Like I said earlier, this is disembodied spirituality. This is the return of Platonism and its surreal mix with Christianity (not to mention Buddhism). Honestly, what I would love to see at this point is Eugene Peterson writing a short, concise book that brings people into a here-and-now faith that is more faithful to the teachings of Christ. I guess I will ju[...]

Matt 3.0


[Imagine The Final Countdown playing right now, with Gob Bluth moonwalking across your computer screen...]

Yes folks, this is my last week working as a youth pastor. Do I have a job lined up for after this week? No. Am I concerned about that? Only occassionally. Am I excited? Yes. Am I sad to be leaving my students? Most definitely.

My plan is this... I am taking 10 whole days off to do whatever I want. I will spend time with my wife and daughter. I will go hiking and cycling. I will read and write. I will pray. I will sleep. I will (hopefully) recover from years of being mega-churched (yes I made a noun into a verb, be impressed).

For the future, I am looking into a job running heavy machinery, which is what I used to do. Honestly, it sounds a lot more rewarding to me right now than working in a church for one more day. Also, my wife and I are looking into the possibility of me going back to school for another Master's degree, this time in English Lit. So just so you know, it is a possibility. But of course, only a fool counts on any of his own plans. I will explore options, take some leaps, and try to trust God with Matt 3.0 (as in, I'm turning 30 and leaving a career on the same day, so I am moving into a new, different life).

But for now I have to try to finish strong. I'll tell you, it is a strange feeling to be leaving. I am trying to tie up loose ends, set volunteers up for success, meet with people one last time and clean out my office. It's a lot! But it is good. Bring on that third decade, I ain't scared!



Book Review: The Corrections



I am new to Jonathan Franzen, having unfortunately not yet read any of his other books. But I will say that The Corrections was an amazing introduction to a new-found favorite author! It is in these pages that Franzen tells the story of the Lambert family, but also the story of modern-day America in so many ways. Franzen deals both seriously and satirically with such issues as sexuality and repression, self-diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, hands-off parenting, and the continual issue of old-world ideals and modern morality. Oh, and there is also my favorite part, where American greed and pathetic understanding of third-world countries is put on display.


I will just say up-front that I loved this book. I love the way Franzen tells a story, going back and forth through time and characters in a way that brings both to life, similar to David James Duncan's The Brothers K. Also, I love satire, though I am always reminded that most people don't understand satire when it is aimed at them, unless it is even more blatant that Franzen's. Regardless, the mirror he holds up for us to look at is stupendous and timely. At the same time, it was sometimes hard for me to look at the satire in this book, as it adversely effected characters whom I had grown to love despite their perverse and selfish lives.


All I can say to finish this up is that this is a great book to read for understanding modern-day America, as well as for just getting into a great piece of fiction. Read it and enjoy it!




Gone for the Week


I am at a camp with my high schoolers this week. There is a chance that I'll get to see my site a couple of times, and a very small chance that I will update it, but most likely I will continue some form of silence for at least 5 more days. This ought to be a fun, but veryveryvery long week.


It's Official


Last night I stood up in front of my students and leaders and let them know that I will be done being a youth pastor on April 20th. It was extremely difficult to say, and the shocked looks didn't help either. But it also felt good to get it out there.

Please be praying for me. I spent my whole adult life wanting to be a youth pastor, but now that I realize it's not where I belong, or even want to be, it leaves me kinda hanging.


My Roubaix


Above is a picture of the Specialized Roubaix, the bicycle I now ride. I know this will interest few if any of my blog readers, but it's my blog and I'm excited, so I'm telling you about it!
The Roubaix gets its name from the French town of Roubaix, located in the North of the country. More specifically though, it gets its name, as well as its reason for being created, from the Paris-Roubaix race, also known as The Hell of the North. This is a race over cobblestones that break bones, puncture tires, and make even the best racers throw in the towel. This bike helps by eliminating a lot of shock from the road. And its light, fast, and freakin' awesome. I went on my maiden outing with it today, riding 25 miles to Birch Bay in near-freezing rain and it was tremendous! I have never rode a bike that was even half as good as this one. I went up hills as if they weren't even there. I went so fast down some larger hills that I was actually frightened (especially when I started catching up with traffic)! All I can say is that I have never been into having the best stuff, but am learning that quality really does make a difference. Not to sound totally materialistic, but I love it. This is a great bike!
On a side note, I will say that I got this bike from my mom. It was my dad's. I had a series of weird feelings taking it, but now, when I ride it, I just think of him constantly and it feels good. I feel like we can share this connection and it is awesome.

Book Review: Disturbing the Peace


I recently finished devouring Disturbing the Peace, a book that is really an extended interview with Vaclav Havel. If you don't know who Havel is, read the wikipedia link that goes with his name, or else you will never believe how incredible he really is. An artist turned president is slightly uncommon in any age, yet that is exactly who we are talking about. I first ran into him reading The Truth about the Truth, but knew I needed more. Fortunately this book happened to make an appearance at the local Goodwill and I snatched it up. I've decided it is too brilliant to have me actually review it, and instead am going to share my favorite quotes. Do yourself a favor and read all of them:.The period you grow up in and mature in always influences your thinking. This in itself requires no self-criticism. What is more important is how you have allowed yourself to be influenced, whether by good or by evil. (8).I’m a writer, and I’ve always understood y mission to be to speak the truth about the world I live in, to bear witness to its terrors and its miseries – in other words, to warn rather than hand out prescriptions for change. (8).I too feel that somewhere here there is a basic tension out of which the present global crisis has grown. At the same time, I’m persuaded that this conflict – and the increasingly hypertrophic impersonal power itself – is directly related to the spiritual condition of modern civilization. This condition is characterized by loss: the loss of metaphysical certainties, of an experience of the transcendental, of any superpersonal moral authority, and of any kind of higher horizon. It is strange but ultimately quite logical: as soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it .We are going through a great departure from God which has no parallel in history. As far as I know, we are living in the middle of the first atheistic civilization… [M]odern man, who is convinced he can know everything and bring everything under his control, is somewhere in the background of the present crisis. It seems to me that if the world is to change for the better it must start with a change in human consciousness, in the very humanness of modern man.Man must in some way come to his senses. He must extricate himself from this terrible involvement in both the obvious and the hidden mechanisms of totality, from consumption to repression, from advertising to manipulation through television. He must rebel against his role as a helpless cog in the gigantic and enormous machinery hurtling God knows where. He must discover again, within himself, a deeper sense of responsibility toward the world, which means responsibility toward something higher than himself. (10-11).The most important thing is that man should be the measure of all structures, including economic structures, and not that man be made to measure for those structures. The most important thing is not to lose sight of personal relationships – i.e., the relationships between man and his co-workers, between subordinates and their superiors, between man and his work, between this work and its consequences, and so on. (13).[Answering the question: What exactly is absurd theatre? How would you define it?][I]t demonstrates modern humanity in a “state of crisis,” as it were. That is, it shows man having lost his fundamental metaphysical certainty, t[...]

Prince of Peace II(a): Jesus' Teachings


To understand Jesus, I want to take the two-track approach and look at his teachings, then examine his life and how he lived-out what he taught. I have no idea how many posts it will take to move through his teachings, which is why I have included an (a) to the title of this post. Let’s see where this takes us…'The first teaching from Jesus I would like to examine is his command to love our enemies. We find him saying this in Matthew 5:44 as well Luke 6:27 (the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, respectively). Simply put, to understand this we need to seek some idea of what Jesus means by love and what he means by enemies. Both of these seem like silly notions, like revisiting the lessons one might have heard in Sunday school. Yet I think the results of such a project are potentially mind-blowing, so will shamelessly move forward with my study.'First of all, let’s look at love as Jesus might have understood it. The word for love in both passages is the Greek word agape, a word used in countless sermons and focused on by such great teachers as C.S. Lewis or even Martin Luther King Jr. To this day it is a word with power and emotion behind it, and here we find it in the Sermon on the Mount/Plain. Dallas Willard says of Matthew 5; “in this crucial passage, where the rightness of the kingdom is most fully displayed, there is a sequence of contrasts between the older teaching about what the good person would do – for example, not murder – and Jesus’ picture of the kingdom heart. That heart would live with full tenderness toward everyone it deals with. This passage in Matthew 5 moves from the deepest roots of human evil, burning anger and obsessive desire, to the pinnacle of human fulfillment in agape, or divine love. In this way the entire edifice of human corruption is undermined by eliminating its foundations in human personality” (The Divine Conspiracy, 137). Willard describes the love we are called to have for our enemies as divine love!'The love we are called upon to have for our enemies is a divine love, a love that comes from God and was displayed by God in the flesh. After all, it was agape love that caused God to send his son to earth (John 3:16), and the Bible tells us that we know what love is because Jesus gave his life for his enemies (1 John 3:16). So we know that this love is the same kind of love God showed us, people who deserve death but were instead given life.'As for enemies, the word Jesus uses is echthros, a Greek word for an enemy, hostile neighbors or individuals, the hated or hateful, those who hate or oppose God, or even the devil himself (see Luke 10:19 or Acts 13:10, for example)! This is not a gentle word. This is not describing the person who cuts you off in the parking lot or gossips behind your back. We are looking at a word that describes the people we fear the most, those who wish to take our lives or even destroy our very souls! This is the other at his/her worst, the epitome of all that is evil and bad and wrong in your world. Jesus says this is the person you must love with a divine love.'I do believe that this is a love that can only come from God, that we cannot love our enemies without the Holy Spirit moving in our hearts and transforming us into the likeness of Christ. It is divine love in this respect most of all: that is must come from God because we are incapable of loving in this way on our own. Yet it is what we must do. We must love our enemies in the way God l[...]

BTW, Silhouette is Back


How do you like my trendy use of btw? Pretty hip, right?

Seriously though, Silhouette is back in action and I totally forgot to mention it. Silhouette is a site my friend Justin put together where a group of folks could share essays, stories, artwork, poetry, etc and get feedback. Also, he submits them to different websites, which is how I've gotten put into Bohemian Alien and Relevant, as I am too much of a wuss to ever try to publish something on my own. But check out the site and read a little. This month I stepped out from my usual form (essays) and wrote my first short story. I'm no Flannery O'Connor, but I'm practicing.


Prince of Peace I: Jesus Binoculars


I have been delaying the writing of these posts as I tried to systematize my thoughts before spewing them out. Unfortunately I’m not sure I am up to it still, but am going to attempt it anyways. For who knows how long, with an unknown amount of posts and words and hopefully many generous exchanges with you, I am going to share why I believe in nonviolence and why I believe this is the only course of action for anybody who wants to follow Jesus.

The first premise I would lay out for this discussion is that a follower of Jesus has to begin their understanding of following Jesus by listening to Jesus first. This sounds obvious, if not absurd, but regardless it is necessary to say. This means we read and interpret Paul, Revelation, the prophets, Moses, the taking of the Promised Land, exile, etc, through the lens of Jesus and his revelation of the Father.

The way I can best describe why this is important is to liken our Biblical hermeneutics to binoculars. Growing up I loved to play with my dad’s binoculars. It was fun to spy on my brothers or try to spot animals from great distances away. It was even more fun to turn them around and make things feel smaller and further away.

What I see in the church far too often is a spinning of the binoculars. We interpret Jesus through the Old Testament and Paul, shrinking Jesus in the process. If we try to disregard something Jesus says or does in the New Testament by saying “but the in the Old Testament…” we are forgetting that Jesus has fulfilled and expanded the Law. That is why he came teaching “You have heard it said…but I tell you…” The same goes with Paul (or any other NT writer for that matter), who was interpreting Jesus’ teachings for specific situations, but was nonetheless trying to follow Jesus.

If we flip our hermeneutical binocular, starting with Jesus, the Old Testament comes into focus, the epistles of the New Testament are read with more understanding, etc. What I am saying is that we have to start with Jesus not just with lip-service, but truly interpret who God is and what the Bible teaches through Jesus. If we cannot start with this common assumption, I cannot move on.

Agree? Disagree?