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Thursday, January 26, 2006


Male Pattern Baldness

Leave it to my mom. At breakfast yesterday she was staring at me, in that way that just can't be ignored.

"What?" I asked. "What are you looking at?"

"You hair," she said. "I think your hair is receding."

Thanks mom. I guess it should bother me, but mostly I just think it is funny. I mean, bald guys are funny. They can't help it. They either accept that they are funny. Or they get kind of mad and obsessive. There's an entire industry for that second group I hear.

I told my wife about it. She had noticed either. Come to think of it maybe my mom is wrong. Let me check in the mirror again.

Nope. Mom's right. I've got the Jack Nicholson thing starting.
Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!

God help me be a jolly bald guy. Like Elmer Fudd.

Not an angry bald guy. Like your prophet Elisha. What was he thinking when he killed all those kids for making fun of him?

The Bible is a strange book.

I'm going bald.

Life is good.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Brian McLaren on Homosexuality

There's a painful discussion going on at Out of Ur these past few days. It is important and honest--that's where the pain comes in. I think pretty much all truth comes from pain.

So much of my faith gets sidetracked in wanting comfort. I want a nice house. I want a happy family. But God didn't come here for comfort. He came here for sacrifice.

Last night I was reading with my daughter. She has a little picture Bible that we read some evenings. (I admit Narnia takes precendence. I do love a good story over a sermon.) Last night was the feeding of the 5000. One discussion question asked what we can give to others around us.

I asked CJ if she would give her lunch to a friend at school. She didn't like that idea.

"You mean take an extra lunch for them?" she asked.

"No," I said. "Imagine they forgot their lunch. Would you give up your lunch so they could have it?"

She thought for a minute. "But what would I eat?" she asked finally.

"Nothing," I said. "You would skip lunch so your friend could eat."

"I think I'd rather give them something else," she decided.

That's when I preached a bit. The most valuable gifts depend on sacrifice, I told her. It sounds good. Maybe someday I'll be able to live out the life I preach to my daughter.

God willing.

Take a look at Out of Ur this week. But be warned that it is painful no matter which side of the debate you favor.

Monday, January 23, 2006

There's been a lot of talk on Christian blogs lately about where the church is going and where it should be going. Should we keep the seeker-oriented mega-model? Are Protestant America's traditions worth keeping or should we look to more established traditions? Is something entirely different about to emerge?

I found this great paragraph by Howard Butt, Jr. from his book Who Can You Trust? He writes, "If you're looking for a perfect church, it will be imperfect as soon as you join it. But God, whom the church serves, is perfect. Though in the midst of our pain we may feel He's failing us, He always shows up on time. How else could we learn patience?"

I know we are quick to say that the church is failing God, but isn't this thought really a kind of accusation toward God? As if to say, How could You have let these wack-o conservatives or those immoral liberals destroy Your church?

HillCountryWriter Category: High Calling Thoughts
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Friday, January 20, 2006

Life is good. The end of January is a good time to think about New Year's Resolutions. I'm serious. Anyone can make a resolution at some New Year's Eve party just before they kiss the girl closest to them at midnight. (For the record, my wife is always the closest girl to me--I make sure of that.) But a month later, I suspect most people have forgotten about their resolution.

I made a weird one this year. Write less.

For years and years, I have had this itching to publish. I don't understand it really. Part of it comes from my dad who wants to see his son published. (He is always the biggest supporter of my writing). Part of it comes from my own romantic vision of publishing and writing and authorship. I'm sure part of it is just plain ego. On a good day, I'm convinced that I could be the next American Novelist. I even have a few completed manuscripts--who doesn't?

Then I read stuff like Word Serve.

I suppose Mr. Greg Johnson isn't trying to smash anyone's dreams. But it sure feels like it.

Then again, why dream of publishing? Gerard Manley Hopkins never published more than a few poems in his own lifetime. He is one of my favorite writers and he didn't see the need to publish.

Also, now that I am employed as an editor, I have to wonder why I am still seeking publication. I used to tell myself that publication would ensure an audience (or at least make an audience more likely). But my words have an audience now--they just don't have my name on them. Is my goal to write? Or to be known as a writer?

So this year, I'm just going to write. Less.

HillCountryWriter Category: Publishing
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Friday, January 13, 2006


Institutional or Scattered Church?

Out of Ur is having another great discussion--this time about the role and definition of the church. I don't see these definitions of church as mutually exclusive.

I do attend a local congregation. It is flawed, but it (and many of the other local congregations) is also the most organized picture of Christ that I see around me. When Katrina hit, our church was able to send 50 men to San Antonio to help with relief efforts. Our buildling hosted over a hundred displaced people. I don't say these things to brag, but to point out the power of a highly structured organization.

Obviously, such structure can become too rigid. For this reason, I try to stay involved in many different parts of the body of Christ--

--a Bible study that meets in my friends house before work

--a LIFE group that utilizes our church building but functions autonomously

--my family as we study and worship together

--my fellow christian co-workers as we discover what it means to serve God through our "non-Church" occupations

--a drama group that shares their talents in various venues

--even this online community (which I love).

I agree with so the direction of this conversation. We need to expand our vision of church--but expanding means we add to our current vision.

HillCountryWriter Category: High Calling Thoughts
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Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Worship and Hospitality

Skye Jethani wrote an interesting piece about Bedouin hospitality for Out of Ur.

I went to a seeker-oriented church for fifteen wonderful years. When we moved last summer, in many ways I felt relieved.

In our new town we joined a smaller church with about 500 in attendance each Sunday. I can't tell you how much it warms my heart to hear normal people leading worship. We even have someone in choir who is--gasp!--tone deaf.

We loved our old church, but the worship was so polished it sometimes felt sterile, like just another Hollywood or Broadway production written to provoke tears at just the right moment. We joked that no one could join the praise band unless they had won a Grammy. In our seeker-oriented church, the polish shined so brightly that most normal folk were too intimidated to serve much at all.

Many seeker-oriented churches define worship as an event that occurs on the church stage, led by a band or choir. By this logic, we polish our presentation because our primary audience is God. He deserves the best worship we can offer. But worship is much more than music. In 1897 M. G. Easton defined worship as "homage rendered to God which it is sinful (idolatry) to render to any created being."

In a sense, Skye Jethani seems to be offering hospitality as a new defining virtue. Much of the debate about seeker-oriented churches centers around methodology worship and worship styles. Rather than spend tremendous amounts of energy putting on a spectacle each week (even if it is for God), we can spend Monday through Saturday worshipping God through ordinary hospitality to the people around us.

Hospitality is an accessible virtue. I don't need a lot of money or artistic genius to be a good host.

Hospitality is about personal relationships and humility. It doesn't dictate style or method so much as heart.

Hospitality is about meeting the needs of a guest. Seeker-oriented churches that anticipate the needs of a guest are simply trying to be good hosts. Such deliberate and often rigid planning doesn’t work for everyone, but it can still build relationships and glorify Jesus Christ.

As much as we talk about finding a personal relationship with Jesus, we shouldn't forget to find a personal relationship with each other. That's hospitality.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Never give up or Never give in?

One of my good friends writes "Dan's Blog" on The High Calling. Last week he posted an interesting bit about Churchill's famous but apocryphal "Never give up" speech. Here is a response I posted there:

I am struck by the difference between "Never give in" and "Never give up." These two phrases describe a very different kind of defeat. Giving up is quitting--almost always a bad thing. When I quit football practice in middle school, I gave up. Even though the decision was the right one, giving up on the sport left me feeling deeply ashamed.

Jesus doesn't feel ashamed of the cross because he didn't give up to evil when he accepted crucifixion. He didn't even give in--his death was a sacrifice that led to victory.

This blog and the comment remind me that we should never give up on God's Truth and Goodness. I walk away from some evils (like internet pornography) because I won't give up on Truth--I trust the Truth of God to be victorious in the end whether I assist directly or not in the defeat of that evil. It is someone else's fight. Other evils (like gossip) I fight because I never give up on Truth--I honor God's calling in my life by doing the work he has given me to help spread peace.

HillCountryWriter Category: High Calling Thoughts
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A response to Out of Ur

I don't think Christianity and Blogging are mutually exclusive--though a post on Out of Ur raises this possibility. Here is the response I posted there:

I agree with Dr. Blomberg in many ways. Blogs seem to encourage debate, and some commenters don't keep their tone in check. Still, the Church can't ignore this new technology simply because it provides new challenges and difficulties for us.

Imagine if the church had ignored the new technology of moveable type. Imagine if Johann Gutenberg had considered the Bible too personal and complicated to make available to the masses. Instead, the Gutenberg Bibles remain a testament to the power of God to glorify himself through any technology.

Blogs provide the Church an opportunity to be a virtual city on a hill. We must show that God can receive glory even in this new technology--through the way we run our blogs, the way we choose which comments to post, and the way other commenters respond to belligerent voices.

For better or worse, Christian blogs present the truth of Christ's church. We are far from perfect here, yet God will be glorified despite our imperfections.

HillCountryWriter Category: Blogging
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