Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Fun: Five Loaves & Two Fish in 2013

Found this cartoon this morning and just had to share it.

Imagine if some people of 2013, who were quite mindful of their personal diet, had traveled back to the powerful moment when Jesus miraculously created enough food to feed over 5,000 impoverished commoners in the middle of nowhere, so they could, as they wanted to, continue to hear His teaching.

You run across some comical things when doing exegetical studies and seeing how things have changed.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bobby McFerrin ("Don't Worry, Be Happy") Speaks on Faith and His New Album

When I was a child, one of the staple cassette tapes (remember those?) of my bedtime music routine was a pair of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. They were How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin and How the Camel Got His Hump. They were narrated by Jack Nicholson, and music/sound effects were solely provided by the vocal talents of Bobby McFerrin.

I followed Bobby McFerrin's vocal talent and saw him perform in Iowa City and listened to him on occasion all throughout college, and I was proud to see him honored as the vocal legend he is on The Sing-Off.

So, apparently, he's releasing a new album entitled "Spirityouall," and he speaks more about his faith. I may be curious to hear more about his Christian faith and his interaction with the Bible. You can read about his new album and his faith shown in it here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Notable and Various Responses on SCOTUS and Gay Marriage

Some wise and comprehensive thoughts here. I'll update this post as more unfolds.

Ed Stetzer on the Christ-like response.

Andy Crouch on the broader changes in views of sexuality in our culture.

Jonathan Merritt with a collection of responses.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An Introduction to and Source for Ethnodoxology

"Ethnodoxology" is the unofficial term for the Christian worship portions of ethnomusicology, that is the study of music of different cultures from across the globe. As music of the local culture has always played an important role in the corporate worship of the local church, ethnomusicology has played an important role in many missionary endeavors as of late. We have Christian ethnomusicologists helping to understand music of different cultures and write worship songs in such genres. Ministerial efficacy has increased when people can sing to their Savior.

As someone with a music comp degree, I can tell you the work of my ethnodoxologist friends is not easy. We tend to be very reliant on the Western notation and structure, and it's hard to operate out of that box. But merely listening to people joyfully worship our Savior and celebrate the Gospel in unfamiliar languages, unfamiliar musical accompaniment and instruments, etc. easily teaches me about how big and masterfully-creative our God is.

So here's a salute to ethnodoxology, and here's a link to learn more.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Gospel and Zombies

I've never been a fan of zombie movies, or even zombie video games. But this article makes some creative connections between biblical truths and zombie literature . . . all the while not encouraging people to seek out the latter. So, zombie fans out there? This is for you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Fun: Jesus Works from Pennsylvania

True story. Last month, I was driving my family through Pennsylvania so my daughters could go to a small amusement park. And I saw this sign.

At first, I thought I must have missed another (and hopefully larger) sign indicating an institution with "Christ" in the name (e.g. "Christ Community Church") that would add context and explain that "Christ's Home Office" is simply the main office of a certain church or institution. So, when we drove back, I looked closely for another sign. Nope. Anyone driving on this historic highway, when curious about this institution, would just see those three words.

So, apparently, our omnipresent and omnipotent Savior has His main hub in Pennsylvania. I wondered what his office hours were. I wasn't the only one to notice this sign. Later in the week, Ed Stetzer noted it and called it the "boldest" sign yet.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ex-Power Ranger Launches Modest Swimwear Company

When I went to the Q Conference is Los Angeles last month, one of the presentations was by Jessica Rey, an actress (known for Power Rangers: Wild Force and Rules of Engagement) who was launching a new line of modest swimwear as inspired by Audrey Hepburn. A video recording of her presentation in Los Angeles is making its rounds now around Christian circles in social media. It's good to see her business getting some more attention. You can learn more about her business here. Below is her presentation.

So, if it's the year for a new swimsuit this summer, consider supporting her business and help modesty make a comeback.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More Worship Slide Typo Stories

I once posted earlier about a real worship slide typo that happened in our church and how Jon Acuff responds. Turns out that the worship slide typos that I've seen in my church have been very, very minor compared to these true stories. And there's even more stories in the comments. You can read them all here.

Learn spelling and grammar, people. And be thorough. It definitely comes in handy.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What We Learned from “The Office”: Pt. 4

All Relationships Can End in Grace

“The people that you work with are . . . your very best friends,” Michael Scott said. Even though Michael was delusional and desperate to make everyone in his office his friend (compensating for his friend-less socially-awkward past), it’s arguably the truest thing that he ever said. And we can’t deny it. No matter hard we try. We have (at the very least) the opportunity to find the best community in the places where we spend the most time and have some of the most challenging experiences. Such opportunities get hindered when there’s so much transience and turnover of personnel and everyone’s instructed to leave as much of their personal life as possible back at home. But, in workplaces unlike that (such as Dunder Mifflin Scranton), there’s the opportunity for both quality community and quality production.

Jim and Pam held their wedding ceremony in Niagara Falls to disinterest their co-workers with the commute, but Michael gave everyone the workdays off to attend. And, as we also discussed, their co-workers also all found themselves, curiously, at Jim and Pam’s daughter’s christening. The employees of Dunder Mifflin Scranton may not have known wedding etiquette or basic theology, but they knew Jim and Pam better than their own relatives did. And, despite all the relational conflicts and general boredom, the departing employees knew they would miss good ol‘ Dunder Mifflin Scranton, no matter what dream position/retirement they acquired (e.g. Athleap, Cornell Admissions).

And there’s always the opportunity to show grace in community. How Jim, after pranking annoying Dwight for years, helped save him his job and get his promotion to manager. How Dwight then upheld Jim publicly. How Oscar, after years of rude holistic condescension from Angela, hosted her and her toddler son in his home, saving them from homelessness. How Stanley, after years of annoyance from Phyllis, carves her a bobble-head and she speaks against his public perception as a grump. The list goes on. 

In an ordinary workplace, there’s plenty of alternatives to grace for such conflict and relational challenge. People can resign, transfer, hold grudges and/or never take any initiatives of friendship again. Grace and forgiveness can be initially painful, but the quality community and quality production of humble little Dunder Mifflin Scranton can be the result.

The more selfless effort, time and grace, etc. you give to a community of people, the more grace and community-feel you will receive. And this doesn’t just pertain to workplaces, but families and churches as well. True community is not a commodity. This is why, for example, people that serve and volunteer in churches feel more like they’re part of a community than back-row church-shoppers. It’s why people that invest love, time and energy with family members, local and distant, don’t feel awkwardly out of the loop at gatherings. That’s the way the pre-Constantine churches of Rome operated, serving their communities with Truth and love.

So, wherever you are and whoever you’re with, strive to give selfless service and grace to those around you. When you make your life not so much about what you want to do and how you feel, and you realize you’re not alone, life, ironically, can be much happier for you. Just like people at Dunder Mifflin Scranton turned out to be, as the banker asked, “generally happy.” 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Fun: Iron Man 3/Man of Steel parody

This is from Why does Superman lose the red outerwear for this reboot? Hoping to see Man of Steel sometime soon.

Have a Happy Father's Day weekend!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Parable Worship

Here's a song based in a parable that isn't inherently meant for children's ministries, but for a general corporate worship service.

It's sung by Sandra McCracken and entitled "Come to the Feast," based in Christ's Parable of The Great Banquet (Luke 14:16-24).

You can read more about it (and listen to it, of course!) here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What We Learned from “The Office”: Pt. 3

Religion (and a Lot Else) is Misunderstood

It was going to be a big party with my friends to watch the Season 4 premiere. I had just gotten married and my wife and I had just moved for grad school and found a new group of friends and fellow Office fans. And the Season 3 finale really left us wondering if Jim and Pam were finally getting together. But we were a bit worried, because the preview synopsis indicated that there’d be a tour of all the characters’ respective religions. In our hopes to have a laughing good time like we had come to expect, might we be encountering some sad sacrilege instead?

Turns out, not at all. There wasn’t much talk, positive of negative, about religion. So it remained misunderstood. Such is a sad reality of our culture that it reflects.

Up until that episode, the only appearance of religion was in the character of Angela, a caricature of uber-conservative  Christianity, most similar to a first century Pharisee. Likely from a somewhat Amish background, Angela mostly wore clothes made for life-size colonial dolls and vehemently disavowed most forms of pop culture and general happiness. Her seeming cold and heartless (and hypocritical) personality maintained a front against all hostile and gracious attempts against it (save for her dozens of cats) until her short-changing and scandalous  divorce from the state senator broke her, and she warned Andy Bernard to not “let pride destroy his life.”   

Toby was a seminary dropout who rushed into a marriage that ended in a messy divorce. Occasionally, you see patience and grace in his role in Human Resources and the handling/counseling of Michael’s issues and his personally insulting and oppressive behavior. However, Toby struggled for years to forgive his ex-wife (and God, who doesn’t deserve the blame), and we slowly see the pent-up bitterness spill out as melancholy resignation. I’ve met a few Tobys in my life.

Stanley Hudson is a twice-divorced unbelieving Catholic. Kelly Kapoor comes from a Hindu family and worships the shallowest parts of pop culture. Phyllis Vance is a nominal Lutheran who married a Unitarian. Oscar Martinez refrained from saying “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and, more than likely, disagrees with most churches’ stances on politics and sexuality.

Aside from these occasional and random caricatures and mentions of religion, the biggest interaction happens when Jim and Pam (also nominal Christians, at best) have their daughter get christened, likely in Pam’s childhood church. The entire office attends the Sunday morning service at the traditional and liturgical sanctuary, and gets accidentally invited (along with the rest of the attending congregation) to Jim and Pam’s families’ private reception.  The office workers meet a group of congregants about to head off to an impoverished part of Mexico to build a school. It’s in this experience where we see each character interact with the notion of a church and its mission.

The idea of a Mexico missions trip seems very implausible, to say the least, to the office workers. Ryan mocks their abstinence from alcohol, and Kevin and Stanley are only frustrated about the food they haven’t been able to eat, due to the unexpected guests. Michael wants to see similar community and charity in the office and chides his workers for their mockery. He and Andy then want to join the community and its charitable mission to Mexico and hop on the bus, but both realize quickly they can’t make that type of disciplined self-sacrifice.

That episode seemingly showed the Truth, teachings, community, charity and even flaws of the Church in a sad-but-accurate implausible light, but it also seemed to purposely show the sad reality of the ethnocentricism, narrow-mindedness, materialism and self-centeredness pervasive in a culture that struggles to understand or accept the Church. As the culture and Church continue to grow apart while living together, impractical tensions and unnecessary scuffles can be prevented with more honest, humble and gracious conversation. Sadly, we don’t see that much in The Office, also when it comes to issues of race, sexuality, politics, culture, etc.

And that’s sadly because we don’t see such honest, humble and gracious conversations that much in society. There ought to be more gentle talk and less angry yelling, or else Michael Scott’s level of knowledge and wisdom when it comes to very common personal issues will likely become the norm. 

Next (and Lastly): All Relationships Can End in Grace       

Monday, June 10, 2013

Prayer is Sacred Communication, Not a Weapon of Spite

Some thoughts here from Joe Carter regarding the graduation speech at Liberty High School.

"Christians in America are justifiably frustrated by attempts to restrict our religious liberties. We should guard such freedoms carefully and oppose unnecessary infringement on religious speech. But there is a proper time, place, method, and motivation for such actions. We should consider our own motivations for supporting such prayers and ask ourselves some hard questions. What message does it send when we applaud a young man for defying legitimate authorities by citing our Lord's model prayer at a graduation ceremony? Does it show others that we want to honor God or is it just another way to show our disdain for our culture war adversaries? Perhaps it would be better to give up public prayers altogether if all they have become is a form of irreverent protest."

You can read the rest here. Thoughts?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Fun: Batman the Soundman

No lie. This cartoon is posted in our gym's sound booth.

I'm normally not one to jump on a meme bandwagon, but this was too witty.

Shout-out to sound board operators for worship services!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What We Learned from "The Office": Pt. 2

“He really respected the manager.” Michael Scott spoke this of his stepfather Jeff when they went to a baseball game and the manager of the team they were cheering for, controversially, took the pitcher off the mound. Michael recalled this during a counseling session with Toby. Upon hearing this story, Toby thought he might have learned a bit about Michael’s background and his need to be in leadership and to be liked.

What’s ironic is that Michael Scott, the Scranton’s Regional Manager for Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., from a business perspective, is a horrible manager. Much of the humor in the entire series’s storyline comes from how Michael Scott allows (or even directly causes) so much (sometimes fire-able) unprofessionalism, distraction and counter-productivity to occur in his office branch due to irrelevant issues in his or another’s personal life. There’s occasionally some bright spots, but Michael Scott’s overall administrative and relationship leadership skills are atrocious. Likely promoted from salesman as a reward for landing a key client, manager Michael Scott is quite unmanageable. It was mostly his subordinates (e.g. Pam, Jim, Toby, etc.) who had to step up and keep the emotional and business functionality of the office intact. One could make the argument, however, that Michael had matured into a more capable manager by the time he was about to leave the company.

So, the best management seen in the series was by those who best managed the unmanageable Michael Scott, whether from corporate or his own subordinates. (Even though the position of Michael’s direct supervisor had more turnover than Hogwarts’ Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts in Harry Potter). Because, despite his lack of administrative skills and overall professionalism, his sales ability (and especially his connections in Scranton) are unprecedented and seemingly vital to the whole company’s well-being.   

Jan Levinson, Michael’s first direct supervisor in the series, realized his sales ability after he landed the government of all of Lackawanna County as the company’s new client. She was a more gracious superior to Michael’s antics, but the repressed issues of her personal life eventually cost her her job. Ryan Howard, the young pseudo-salesman with an MBA who became her surprising successor, tried to enforce (almost with a vendetta) more professionalism and productivity in the branch, along with many unwanted methodical changes across the board. The failure and scandal of his project, the new company website, resulted in his termination. Then Charles Miner, from Saticoy Steel, came into the office like an impersonal and ignorant drill sergeant, not acknowledging/utilizing the employees‘ various strengths and weakness and offending Michael out of the company, after which he started his own paper supplier business, vengefully utilizing his knowledge of his now ex-employer and his connections in Scranton to steal many clients. David Wallace, a newer CFO for Dunder Mifflin, had several periods for supervising Michael while his direct supervisor position was vacant. Later, when Dunder Mifflin was purchased by Sabre, its Founder/CEO Jo Bennett and branch liaison Gabe Lewis seemed to have good balanced leadership to let Michael do what he does best: train the sales team, and get out of the way of everything else.

So, whoever best managed Michael Scott saw the most profit and business success, and that very much required the gifts of grace and maximization to best utilize the diverse gifts from a diverse group of people, selling paper to a diverse group of clients in diverse places.

Such grace and maximization is rare good management, and it’s key to success. It reminds me about Paul’s illustration of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-26). Why try to make an eye do what an ear does? Why try to live without a sense of smell? 

We ought to see such grace and maximization more in business, church and even family leadership.

Next: Religion (and a Lot Else) is Misunderstood  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First Ladies vs. Pastors' Wives?

I had the privilege of visiting my country's capitol, for the first time, last week. We took the Metro in from New Carrolton, MD and walked by the White House, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial (where we found my wife's late grandfather and my late grandfather's profiles both in the veteran database), Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial. We passed by Lincoln's statue and the Jefferson Memorial, and toured the national museums (Art Gallery, Air and Space, and American History).

Upon my wife's request, we visited the "First Ladies" exhibit of the National Museum of American History. The line to see the gown archives (which seemed to be the main attraction) was packed and moving at a snail's pace, so we looked at other displays in the exhibit. The caption under the exhibit's welcome sign was so intriguing that I photographed it. It reads:

First ladies are unofficial but important members of presidential administrations. For more than 200 years, we have judged their clothes, their parties, their projects, and their roles in the White House.

While some duties, such as White House hostess, are performed by all first ladies, the job does not come with a specific list of responsibilities. America's first ladies have been national advocates, trend setters, leaders and role models. Each one remakes this undefined and challenging position to suit her own interests, the needs of the administration, and the public's changing expectations of women in general and first ladies in particular. 

Now, without delving into a debate on either the role of women in the church or the level of power a pastor possesses (as I am analogizing them to Presidents), I found these two paragraphs fascinating because of a possible similarity to the life of a pastor's wife.  Pastors' wives also are often "unofficial" faces in church leadership who fill an "undefined and challenging" role and often face various types of (sometimes unwarranted) judgment. Yet, at least from the people I've met in my travels, pastors' wives personalities and ministry strengths have been so diverse that it (rightfully) attempts to keep the local culture's expectations for a pastor's wife, or sometimes for women in general, from being extra-biblically specific. 


Needless to say, I'm thankful to God for the diversity of personalities and ministry strengths I see in the "unofficial" members of the church staff and how they've served Him! So, here's a shout-out.