Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Three Ideas for Black Friday

It feels like Thanksgiving is diminishing. More like being crowded out. Most of the pumpkin and straw-man decorations available in department stores are for Halloween, and they’re quickly transferred to the clearance shelves as soon as November 1 arrives to make away for more Christmas merchandise. Wreaths, lights and holly are all set up in the city streets before Thanksgiving can have its day. Now, it seems Thanksgiving is getting the shorter end of the proverbial stick as Black Friday sales can’t wait for midnight on their namesake day to open the store doors anymore. They’re creeping into Thanksgiving Day itself, competing for our business and tempting us with low prices, should we be willing to potentially jettison what some utilize as rare time together as extended family.

Now, I’m not going to argue for traditional Thanksgiving celebration and a boycott of Black Friday. But here’s a few ideas for Black Friday madness:

1. Don’t forget Thanksgiving. It’s an attitude we should strive for year-round, but let’s not ignore the annual reminder. Make time for your family. Don’t use your Black Friday shopping schedule to avoid, for example, a family movie night or the conversation where you need to reconcile with a relative. 

2. Check your motives and your aura. It can be seen as seriously seen as hypocritical to celebrate a holiday of thankfulness, only to show passion and aggression in an arena of materialism the next day. Why do you go to Black Friday sales? Are they needed (or wanted) gifts for others? As a shopper, do you have an aura of clamoring desperation or contentment and mild curiosity? Do you really need these products and prices? How much are you getting suckered in by the hype?

3. Be creatively ministerial. Some Christians, for example, rather than shut down their house and boycott trick-or-treating, have found creative ways to utilize the once-a-year opportunity to engage their neighborhood with the light of Christ. We have similar opportunities on Black Friday when we’ll be in long, long lines. Make conversation with people. Maybe even hand out bottled water, food or hot cocoa to the exhausted waiting customers. When you’re inside the store, be a peacemaker among scrambling shoppers. Encourage the overwhelmed and even traumatized store employees. You could also do your Black Friday shopping at ethical businesses and charities.

I’m not wholly against a Christian attending a Black Friday sale, as long as they think of such ideas and consider the true cost. When you miss opportunities to be with your family and several hours of sleep, coming off like an unthankful, selfish and desperately materialistic lemming with frostbitten fingers (from waiting in line for so long), is 50% off really worth it?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ten Times It's Wise to Hold Your Tongue

A blogger I follow posted this. Very wise words.

1. When you have no idea what to say
2. When you're wrongly accused
3. When you're mad
4. When you're confused about life
5. When you wouldn't want someone else to find out you said it
6. When you don't really mean it
7. When you can't stop yearning for the good old days
8. When you have a lot to do and you don't like it
9. When the timing is wrong
10. When you don't have anything to say that gives grace
Click here for the full post and each reason's Scriptural explanation.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Does Your Facebook Rant "Honor Everyone"?

Some wise and convicting words from Trevin Wax. 

The Apostle Peter’s letter was written to “exiles,” believers facing persecution far greater than any of us Americans have ever seen. These Christians were living under a tyrannical government far worse than any bureaucrat in a D.C. office. Yet Peter instructed believers to live honorably among others (1 Peter 2:11-17). The “others” refer to those who are not “in Christ.”
The word “conduct” appears thirteen times in the Bible, and eight of those times are in Peter’s letters. It’s safe to say, Peter cared about how our conduct was viewed by outsiders.
Now, the fact that Peter says we should live honorably among others means we must indeed be among the lost. Some evangelicals, weary of partisan bickering and political posturing from their Christian friends, are ready to throw up their hands and avoid political engagement altogether. I understand that sentiment, but failing to be present or involved in any meaningful sense in a democratic republic would be to forfeit the stewardship we’ve been given. There is no retreat here.
Let's take it from the apostle Peter. He knows what he's talking about.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Fun: Preventing Thanksgiving Family Arguments

A few weeks ago, my church showed a Christmas dramedy that involved some moments of awkwardness and tension as three siblings reluctantly got together for Christmas. The play was humorous, and it was God-given maturity and grace that helped them to celebrate the holiday without any heated arguments and lingering discord.

But maybe this is a good idea, too. Well-written and clever. It sometimes takes strange and strenuous measures of grace and sacrifice to heal and maintain a family.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Robertsons of "Duck Dynasty" Share Some Testimony

Some powerful stories from some good people who aren't aloof and aren't what many wrongfully (and sometimes rudely) think.

You can view the video here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Modern Christmas Grinches

As Advent approaches, an interesting perspective from Kevin DeYoung. Sure, there's merit to abandoning Western Christmas traditions and taking, for example, an ascetic approach to celebrating Jesus's birth, but it's a bit hypocritical to have a Grinch-like rebuking aura to others when celebrating a season of Joy.

There is a time for fasting in the Christian life and a time for feasting. The Old Testament teaches us that. And so does Jesus. If Western Christianity is selfish and bloated, let us be the first to say so and the first to show a more excellent way. But let us be the last to use the occasion of the incarnation for moral preening. If the disciples were to rejoice when the Bridegroom was with them, surely we can do better than to be outraged sourpusses every year when we commemorate his coming.

Read the rest here

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Death of the Album?

I was the most connected with the "popular music" world in high school. I could hum a few bars from most of the Billboard 100 and had my own rock band. We didn't ever get signed and we never even had a manager, but we did manage to release something resembling a full-length album. Back then, my fellow music fans and I waited patiently for their favorite bands to release new albums, excited to hear/see the rare previews on the radio or TV. Making a good album (not just a few good songs) was seemingly the measure of a good band, and albums easily (and often rightfully) defined tours and even chapters of a band's life. "Concept albums" were a growing trend among contemplative songwriters.

This "era" was just over 10 years ago, just as iTunes was only arriving on the horizon. And now the "album" may be on its last leg.

I don't listen to Katy Perry's music, but this article (Warning. Some PG-13 language.), linked by a music production colleague of mine, has some good but sad points about the pending death of the album in the recording industry. Due to the increasing number of recording artists, access and customizability in the music industry and the technology thereof, bands are dealing with a more demanding and instant-gratification culture where the shelf-life of a hit song (much less an album) is discouragingly short. No doubt this will further drive the wedge between those who want to make what sells and those who want to just want to make creative art, not distracted by any factors.

It sounds ridiculous, but what if this demand of consumers spilled into other forms of art and entertainment, e.g. film? Would producers need to rush the schedule (potentially losing key cast and crew unwilling to overcommit) to make an awaited sequel six months earlier than what's typical? Or should we pass on releasing films in theaters anymore, and just release them in 10-20 minute segments online every 1-2 months so we can appease the impatient audience?

This socio-cultural reality applies to corporate worship in churches as well. Although profit is not the end goal of writing and executing worship songs, it's a bit troubling how short of a shelf-life even the best modern worship songs have.

Music-makers and Christ-worshippers, what are your thoughts?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Bible, Soldiers, and PTSD

An interview with a pair of televangelists wherein they (very) wrongfully misinterpret a passage of the book of Numbers to deny the reality of post-traumatic stress disorder and berate its victims is making the rounds in social media, sadly. 

Here's a truly awesome response from Joe Carter that honors both the sacred truths of the Bible and soldiers suffering from PTSD.

How then should we answer the fools Copeland and Barton? While it is tempting to ignore them completely, I believe that would be a mistake. Had they merely proffered another laughably inept reading of the Bible, it would have hardly been worthy of notice. Throughout his career, Copeland has been accused of various heresies, most of which he created through his inept handling of Scripture. And though Barton is still, inexplicably, trusted by many conservative evangelicals, he has himself built his reputation on twisting and misrepresenting historical documents for ideological and propagandist purposes. They are, in other words, among the last people who could be relied on to intelligently interpret a text.

Throughout most modern wars, from World War I to Vietnam, both the military and civilian worlds denied or downplayed the existence of this form of psychological trauma. It wasn't until the post-Vietnam era that the medical community began to recognize that experiences of PTSD sufferers were not only real, but also that the causes were likely rooted in genes and brain chemistry, rather than a defect in the veteran's character.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Fun: Jingle Hoops

This video is an early Christmas greeting to the fistful of NBA fans in the state of Wisconsin (and, of course to NBA fans elsewhere in the world. Go Bulls!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Are Our Smartphones Killing Us?

Some provocative points. 

Recently, and for no apparent reason, a man gunned down a random college student in the middle of a crowded rail car in San Francisco.
You know what’s even more unsettling?
There were no Good Samaritans.  According to surveillance video, no one responded when the gunman drew his weapon.  In fact, no one noticed at all.  All of the passengers were so distracted by their smartphones that it took a gunshot to rouse them from their digital torpor.
Not since John Harley and Bibb Latane studied the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1968, coining “the Bystander Effect,” have we seen such an egregious example of the absolute uselessness of eyewitnesses to a crime.  In the case of Kitty Genovese, the New York Times reported that 38 people witnessed her attacker assaulting her before any one of them took enough responsibility to call the police.  In San Francisco, these eyewitnesses didn’t even get to the point of making a moral decision about whether or not to intervene.  Even if they had wanted to save the college student’s life, they weren’t aware enough of what was transpiring around them to recognize that one of their fellow human beings was in life-threatening danger.
Could this be even worse?
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy 5th Birthday, Abby the Artist!

Early this morning, I headed out to my town's new Dunkin Donuts to buy some munchkins for my daughter for her first breakfast as a 5-year-old. Hard to believe it's been 5 years since we've been parents.

Nonetheless, happy birthday to my daughter who is more like me than what's for your own good. You're creative and passionate, so we've had to throw funerals and burials for pet slugs, make jack-o-lanterns from 4-inch pumpkins, and play along with an idea for a "message-in-a-jar" on our front porch. Not surprising, since your dad, as a young boy, threw a birthday party for a pair of shoes. We've also purchased you a $6 "art desk" from the thrift store, because you love to do "projects," some of which we're keeping for the long term. A mobile you made is currently hanging from our minivan's rearview mirror, and a painting you made (inspired by your uncle's mission trip to Mexico) is sitting on a small easel on my office bookshelf. I'm crossing my fingers that your skill turns into a free ride to a prestigious art school and our ticket to fine museums all across the world. 

In any case, have a happy 5th birthday! And never lose your passion and joy in life! 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Best on Theology and Art

I'm thrilled to be reposting thoughts and meditations of Dr. Harold Best, Dean Emeritus of my alma mater, whose insightful (and sometimes challenging) works/words have been one of the foundations of my development in thinking about theology and art and in becoming a worship arts pastor.

At base, culture is an interaction between what people believe and what they make.  Its forays into idolatry will be seen in the extent to which things believed and things made are dependent on or equal to each other.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only forum in which things believed and things made are unconfused, properly differentiated, and fully integrated.  For the Christian mind—the biblically theologized mind—truth and beauty are not confused, relativities and absolutes are properly defined, creature and Creator are wisely separated, means, ends, and offerings are wonderfully clarified, and gift and Giver set in eternal hierarchy.  Thus the arts are never elevated to a place of means or end.  They are simply and purely offerings—perfume—poured over the feet of Jesus, while others catch the fragrance, first of Jesus and only then, the gift.

You can read the rest here

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Fun: Packers Practice Injuries

Looks like somebody (besides fistfuls of realistic Packers' fans and local Wisconsin news) has noticed the above-average swathe of injuries received by Green Bay Packers.

I wish there was an article to accompany the photo, which headlined "Packers Warm Up By Rolling Around On Field Clutching Knees."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Happy Birthday, Billy Graham!

Billy Graham, perhaps the most influential and loving preacher of integrity in the 20th century, turns 95 today, and what better birthday greeting and coverage to post than from his pastor/professor grandson Tullian Tchividjian.

"Today 'Daddy Bill' turns 95. I’m in North Carolina to celebrate his birthday. Among the invited guests who will be there are Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Bill Clinton, Rick Warren, and Lecrae. He told me that he doesn’t plan on speaking (he’s so weak), but I wouldn’t be surprised if he took this rare (and perhaps last) opportunity to preach the Gospel to the gathered guests. He just can’t help himself. It’s who he is. He can’t get it out of his system.
"Born November 7, 1918 on a dairy farm outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, 'Daddy Bill' (who lived the majority of his life on the world stage) rarely leaves home now. His mind is still sharp but his body is weak and frail. He says that getting old has been hard. His wife of over 60 years (my grandmother 'TaiTai') died 6 1/2 years ago. Most of his friends have died. He still sees a world in dire need but is now, for the most part, relegated to the sidelines-cheering his brothers and sisters on, but wishing he could still be in the game. He told me recently that he thinks he’ll live another year or two. I hope it’s longer."
You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hazing vs. Initiating

As if it wasn't enough for my longtime football-fan friends that the increasing awareness of the dangers of concussions is likely pressuring NFL authorities to make game-changing rules, now the abusive and threatening messages from Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito to teammate Jonathan Martin might inspire the powers that be to ban/limit in-team hazing.

While the denotation of "hazing" can't help its own case, my experiences of hazing, as a newcomer in a few organizations, have been nothing but playful, harmless and productive in initiating me into the community and excellence of the group. Perhaps it was better termed as "initiating"?

"Hazing," on the other hand, may not have the basis and goal of building team chemistry (e.g. trust), hence why such scandals happen when hazing rituals "go too far." Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has made efforts to ban hazing on his team.

"Initiating" newcomers is a creative way of building community, excellence and future leadership. "Hazing" seems to reek of divisiveness, arrogance and in-team abuse that leads to, among other things, discord, which isn't good for a team sport.

What are you thoughts on hazing and initiating?  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Fun: Reformation Polka

In celebrating Reformation Day, this is a lovely little ditty I learned in seminary, and my church actually let me dress up as Martin Luther and sing it for the congregation during a Sunday evening service. It's to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

When I was ein younger man 
I studied canon law;
though Erfurt was a challenge 
it was just to please my pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck; 
I called upon Saint Anne:
I shaved my head, I took my vows 
– an Augustinian.

Papal bulls, indulgences and transubstantiation:
speak your mind against them and face excommunication.
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a reformation,
papal bulls, indulgences and transubstantiation.
When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St Peter’s profits soared,
so I wrote a little message for the All Saints’ bulletin board;
‘you cannot purchase merit for we’re justified by grace;
here’s ninety-five more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!
They loved my tracts, adored my wit; all were ex empleror;
the pope, however, hauled me up before the emperor.
‘Are these your books? Will you recant?” King Charles did demand;
“I will not change my diet sir, God help me, here I stand.’
Duke Frederick took the wise approach, responding to my words
by knighting George a hostage in the kingdom of the birds.
‘Use Brother Martin’s model as the languages you seek,
stay locked inside the castle with your Hebrew and your Greek.’
Now let’s raise our steins and concord books together in this place
and spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower-case;
the word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets a chance,
so come on, Katie, drop your lute and join us in our dance.