Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Meanwhile, Another "Free Speech" Battle . . . with Zombies

          If the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ultimately goes to bat, as they should, for Chick-fil-A, its COO's personal opinion against same-sex marriage is not the most inflammatory free speech they've defended, even in the Chicago area. In 1978, they defended a neo-Nazi group's right to parade down the north suburb of Skokie, where many Holocaust survivors lived. (Myself, I've been through the Jewish village in Skokie, and lived in the north suburbs of Chicago for a few years. The effects and aftermath of that whole fiasco are still in the hearts of many in the Jewish communities in Chicago's north suburbs, thirty years later).
          While that issue may be cooling on the grill, another "free speech" battle happened. Another inflammatory and potentially regular defendant of the ACLU is Westboro Baptist Church, who use their freedom of speech to spew twisted theology and hateful condemnation to those mourning at funerals. They are protected by the first amendment, but so is the larger group of people, dressed like zombies, to creatively and legally keep Westboro's picketers away from the funeral.
          Way to be selfless and non-violent, zombies!  

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Viking to Be Proud Of: Jared Allen

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
          A Packers fan colleague of mine told me about Jared Allen's faith before I read this article, but I wasn't actually surprised. I already knew that he was, in addition to leading the NFL in sacks, helping to lead the team and its fans in morale and community. Allen's "sack dance" doesn't show off his muscles or intimidating demeanor but rather gives a strong nod to his steer-wrestling background. In interviews, he's a humble and hopeless optimist for the team, and he was a rare and gracious defender of the work of soon-to-be-fired head coach Brad Childress when owner Zygi Wilf was taking a critical survey. He spends a lot of off-season time and money visiting deployed troops and veterans and charities. And Allen, with all the glory his on-the-field work affords him, certainly has a humble relationship with the camera best described as "Hi, Mom!"
          I recently found a great article on his faith here.
          So Godspeed to you, Jared Allen! I honestly hope that you, someday, find yourself in Canton with at least a single-season sack record and a Super Bowl ring. It's humble leaders like you, Leslie Frazier, and Adrian Peterson that make me proud to be a Vikings fan.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Four Reasons for Christians to Enjoy the Olympics

          Have you ever been in another country during Olympic season? Four years ago, while they were setting things up in Beijing, I was in a small orchestra in Romania. We were playing concerts (including, ironically, an ensemble piece I wrote in Koine Greek) in smaller cities and preaching the Gospel. I came home to the States and cheered as Constantina Tomescu won the gold medal in the women's marathon and took a few victory laps with the Romanian flag.
          Along with that, my wife has done mission work in London, as is thrilled to see the Olympic Games return to England. So I thought it'd be fun to think of a few reasons to, as Christ-followers, enjoy the Olympics.

1) Honoring God's Ingenius Design. It may be awhile before an artificial intelligence can get a perfect score on the balance beam or get a gold medal in synchronized swimming. Reminds me of God's glorious Creator-hood.

2) Honoring Stewardship and Perseverance. Most-to-all Olympic athletes have been good stewards of the physical condition of their bodies, gifts of the Creator God, refining them (sometimes painfully) to their near full capability. Reminds me of sanctification.

3) Honoring Effective Coaching. No Olympic athlete gets there by him/herself. Parents, trainers and coaches selflessly invest in them. Reminds me of discipleship, shepherding and leadership development.

4) Honoring Community over Rivalry. Just like Miami Heat fans and Chicago Bulls fans try to unite to cheer on the U.S., the Olympics are a chance for the world to come together and celebrate diverse unity. Reminds me of how Christ's children across the globe are to love one another and their neighbors, beauty and warts included.



Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are You Smarter Than a Sunday Schooler?

          This summer, Jeff Foxworthy may help you find out.
          It's been in the news in both the ChristianPost and TheBlaze, and even advertised on Focus on the Family's website PluggedIn, that the Game Show Network will broadcast a new series known as The American Bible Challenge. Winnings will go directly to a "worthy faith-based organization."
          You can read about it here. The show seems like an interesting venture. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Testimonies from NASCAR Drivers

          No, I'm not related to any race car driver with the last name "Gilliland" (and yes, I have been asked that more than once). But to all you NASCAR fans out there, you might want to see this video of collected testimonies from drivers.
          (And note my success in avoiding any annoying puns in this little blurb).  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Penn State, the NCAA Sanctions and Cultural Change

          Myself, I don't have a proud emotional attachment to a BigTen school, but I have a lot of colleagues who do (namely Hawkeyes). I can't imagine what those involved in Penn State's football program are going through right now.
          I follow the blog of a philosophy prof at Calvin, whose article on the future of Penn State's football program in light of the NCAA's sanctions made it to the Detroit Free Press. He makes some good points and raises some good questions about justice, restoration and, arguably, even forms of ministry.

          "In his book To Change the World, University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter articulates a theory of cultural change that might temper the N.C.A.A.’s hope in this regard. 'Cultural change is most enduring,' Hunter concludes, 'when it penetrates the structure of our imagination, frameworks of knowledge and discussion, the perception of everyday reality.' In other words, cultural change happens when the ethos of an institution or organization is captivated by a different story, when it imagines itself differently."

          You can read the rest here.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Processing the Theater Shooting

          My wife and a few people very close to me know that I'm a huge fan of the new Batman movie series. I watched Batman Begins 3-4 times in my home movie theater in Iowa in 2005, and bought the special DVD the day it was released (which was right after my birthday!). However, I encountered a month delay in seeing The Dark Knight due to overseas mission work, and no, I haven't yet seen The Dark Knight Rises. (Please don't tell me anything!).
          I was on vacation and thirty miles away from any movie theater on July 19-20. Still, with the little cell service we got, my wife heard and then informed me about the shooting at a theater's premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO. Since then, the story has dominated the proverbial airwaves. From distant, small-town local news to Facebook, we're learning about the shooter's background and hearing testimonies from friends of friends of victims, and I don't think people will forget what the crime scene looks like for a while.
          I'll admit I've had some trouble wrapping my head around this tragedy, too. I've sometimes gone back to what I wrote more than a year ago. But I'm thankful that Collin Hansen puts some things in perspective.

          "Our ancestors lived in a scary world like this. At any moment they might succumb to a disease no one understood. Or become collateral damage in a war they didn't start. Or suffer starvation when the skies withheld their rain. The patriarchs of the Old Testament lived in such a world. So did the apostles of the New Testament. So did Jesus."

          You can read the rest here, appropriately titled, "The True Knight is Risen." I wish more people, Christians in particular, saw this link.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Fun: Jewish Acapella Group Sings About Esther

          It's an intriguing episode in the world of theology and culture when, in the days of The Sing-off, you have a talented all-male and Jewish acapella group that explicitly sings Old Testament stories and even has Hebrew lyrics. It's also a good window for Christian cultural exegesis nerds like me.
          In any case, you ought to check out their song about the story of Esther, a story with which we can be thankful that God takes care of His children.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't "Be Yourself." Develop Yourself.

          When I was studying music composition at the conservatory, the staff spent four years trying to teach us, ironically, to truly be original. We were exposed to and taught to write in all forms of music, including the forms we didn’t like (namely, the abstract twentieth century music that didn’t appeal to those with more tonal tastes) in order to best diversify our musical diet and add tools to our proverbial toolbox, when it came to writing music. 
          Some may think that one would only need to look inside their creative self to be original, but that assumes that their creative self has been exposed to a variety of relevant (sample) material and possess the right proverbial tools. Having a balanced musical diet was necessary. Otherwise, as a composer, you’d only become a lower form of your favorite composer or recording artist, hypocritically, not being very original. 
          This, actually, became an issue of accountability among myself and my fellow music composition majors. They could tell, for example, when I’d been listening to too much John Williams (film music is an easy addiction for some music students) when I brought my composition assignments to class. A balanced musical diet, at the very least, will teach students to write music where the musical borrowings from other composers are so diverse and minute that even a musical connoisseur can’t find them. 
          Upon graduation, myself and a few other composition majors had humbly submitted ourselves to the curriculum, expanded (sometimes uncomfortably) our musical diet, and, therefore, added to our musical toolbox, becoming better musical composers. But if a student resisted and kept his/her imbalanced diet, they’d write music after graduation pretty much the same way they did before they enrolled in the conservatory.
          I bring up this story because this idea of balance and diversity in one’s education is also true for theology. I am a textbook moderate. I am very slow to say that I “like” any particular theologian, pastor, speaker, author, etc. But when I do, I quickly follow with some things I “don’t like” about the same individual. The reverse is also true. 
          I avoid most theological labels, and I can only have a mixed relationship with church movements. Some movements are just unfounded fads, while others are biblically rightful developments in the Church’s maturity and methodology. Those who hop modern movements can become like the tentative and infantile individuals Paul warns against (Eph. 4:14), but those who prejudicially avoid all church movements will tend toward dangerous and arrogant complacency in church practice. (Now, I’m not avoiding labels for its own sake, or to “be myself.” It’s all about the Bible. Every theological stance and church movement should be weighed biblically.).
          So, my advice to students of the Bible: don’t “be yourself.” Develop yourself. Rid your education of all bias and preconceived notions and open up your mind, because the Word of God is very, very deep. If a diversely-balanced musical diet can make a great composer, imagine what a diversely-balanced yet orthodox study of the Bible and the Church can do for a servant of God.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Autistic Pastor Launches Church in Florida

RNS photo by Dick Blume/The Post Standard
          If you believe that God's power is made perfect in human weakness, you might want to check out this story. The apostle Paul's words (2 Corinthians 12:9) found their way into the Huffington Post through an inspiring article about a successfully-ministering and autistic pastor.
          Wish I lived closer to Florida so I could visit his church.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Modern Use of Hymns: Three Worship Leaders Discuss

          There are some good thoughts here.
          I stumbled upon this little video off of The Gospel Coalition where three prominent worship leaders and fans of hymnody discuss the use of hymns in modern times. I'm proud to have learned from Kevin Twit (the one at the table with the striped shirt), his Bible knowledge and worship leadership while in an internship in Nashville. I do occasionally use a song from Twit's music ministry, Indelible Grace, at my church.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Fun: An "Issue" with Winnie the Pooh

          For a mommy-daughter date with my older daughter, they went to see the new Winnie the Pooh. It was my older daughter's first time seeing something in a movie theater. My other daughter and I have gotten to see it, courtesy of the local library. Below is a funny clip. I gotta give credit to Disney's writers for being able to make parents laugh as well as kids (even though some of you may not think the clip below is an example of this). Enjoy!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Cake Boss" and the Family of God

image found on inquisitr.com

          My wife enjoys watching the show “Cake Boss.” I watch it with her on occasion. It’s a fun reality show about an Italian family that runs a bakery in Hoboken, NJ. We get to see how Buddy, Jr., the “cake boss” lead his bakery employees (mostly, if not all, members of his family) as he creatively meets the demands of custom cakes by clients, and we also get to see the highlights of family gatherings (e.g. their homecoming to Little Ferry, NJ).
          There was one particular series of episodes that really piqued our curiosity: the family trip to Italy. They had a big (and sometimes tearful) reunion, showing video footage of late family members and got a tour of the old homes, bakeries and churches of the family’s past from the older generations. It pretty much made my wife wish she was Italian.
          But it was really fascinating and difficult for us to imagine a world where our customs, religion, vocational passion, nationalism, and so much of what seems to make up our identity seems to be all strongly consolidated in the family. This is hard to imagine for Americans like myself as we walk through places like New York’s Chinatown or Chicago’s Greektown. Could you imagine an Americatown in say, Canada, China or Poland?
          Myself, I’m a composite of four different European nationalities, and my wife has a strong Scottish background but doesn’t quite know all of her nationality makeup (her late grandmother was adopted). And, for the most part, we come from families who are also “mixed European,” tread lightly on respective European national traditions and live all across our diverse country of the free. 

          Strong traditions and ties are good. They inadvertently uphold love, community, pride and unity, but it’s even better to celebrate being in the family of God. We’re quite the diverse family in locations, customs, etc., but what unites us is far more absolute and glorious than established tradition.
          So, how are you going to celebrate the family today? I wish I could take mine to Italy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tambourine Player Gets a Taser at Church

          Nothing much to be learned from this story. Except maybe there should be a tambourine room next to the crying room?