Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some New Digs

I have recently started contributing to a great local newspaper based in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea which is a favorite locale for April and I. You can check them out at

Below are my first couple of columns. It's kind of like the poor man's Dave Barry, or something like that....I'll hopefully begin linking them here regularly and not posting them in chaotic bulk like this...

Cleaning up the Streets

January 30, 2009

Lauderdale-By-The-Sea may not be the horn-blowing capital of the world, but its seasonal traffic is certainly not listed as a tourist attraction by the Chamber of Commerce either.

So as we continue to dwell in this abode with ever increasing traffic, I'm hereby proposing the federal government add one more stipulation to any bailouts they give to the automakers:

Car companies must add an "alternative horn" as a standard feature to all their production models.

Why? Well perhaps you have found yourself in the exact same scenario I was in the other day:

I'm routinely sitting at a red light, when the light suddenly turned green but the car in front of me failed to move. Working on my patience, I extended the few courtesy seconds - I'm by no means the guy who has his hand already on the horn waiting to honk a nanosecond after the light turns green, like some sort of wild west outlaw with an itchy trigger finger - and yet after the few seconds had gone by the car still wasn't moving and my patience was waning....

So I honked.

And I immediately felt like a jerk.

You see the normal horn - even if it is lightly tapped - sounds so belligerent and demanding. Granted, I drive a pickup truck and so the horn is more pronounced than it would be in say, a Mini Cooper. Even so, the problem is that the same horn is used for the jerk that cuts you off, the person about to back into you, the person drifting into your lane, and the little lady ahead of you at the light who you just want to gently remind, "Green means go."

But the horn says it otherwise.

It's like the Seinfeld episode where Jerry's uncle Leo gets his eyebrows waxed but in a slanted fashion - from that point on anything the guy says, no matter how nicely, comes across like he's angry because he appears angry.

The horn, no matter what, always appears angry. Like you're shaking your fist and cursing under your breath when perhaps it's one of the few times you're not.

We, the people, need an alternative horn.

Keep the standard horn and its confrontational reputation for when we really need it but give us another horn that communicates, "Hey I'm not mad, just wanna remind you the light's green." Or for those times when you’re moving down your street and want to say hello to that neighbor always turned around watering the lawn. Instead of trying to tap the horn in some kind of rapid-fire sequence aimed at sounding cheerful but really causes your startled neighbor’s heart to palpitate, what about a greeting horn?

The question is what would such a horn sound like?

Perhaps a chime of some sort?


I tell you what, a little “Strangers in the Night” blaring across Commercial and A1A during gridlock would go a long way in this town...

Calling Timeout

February 20, 2009

Earlier this month somewhere around 97 million people were reported to have watched the Super Bowl – America’s unofficial holiday –in which the tradition-rich Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the feel-good-story Arizona Cardinals. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea residents and visitors contributed to the 97 million figure as televisions glowed from condo balconies and fans flocked to the great watch party stationed along the street between 101 Ocean and the Village Grill/Pump.

As my wife and I strolled the street that night, I was reminded that the cultural entity known as “sports” is really a fascinating thing. First, it is the great social equalizer. Our society places high value on personal space and ways to secure it such as privacy hedges and fenced in yards, and yet somehow a sporting event can entice people to pack into a plastic seat laden stadium like sardines. Beer-guzzling, face-painted sardines, but sardines nonetheless. Our society is still at times very fragmented demographically as people of one race, color, creed or income level only associate with others of the same, and yet somehow a sporting event entices people to look beyond skin color or job title and congregate together in a diverse mass to root their team on. In this way sports fans are color blind, well, at least blind to any color but the one on a team’s jersey!

The cultural entity known as sports also serves as the great conversation piece. What is a business man to do as he rides the elevator to the top floor of a skyscraper surrounded by people and awkward silence? Mention last night’s game – a score, statistic, or highlight-reel play – and it is amazing how the elevator ride will suddenly be too short to accommodate the conversation. The same is true if you are waiting for the bus, or a table at a restaurant, or if you’re sitting on one of those couches in the middle of the mall with the other men waiting for your wife to “finish” her shopping.

Perhaps most humorously though is the realization that the cultural entity known as sports is also at times the great contradiction. If ever one begins to think that we third-millennium earthlings living in post-modern America are at the height of human sophistication and social progress, go and attend a major sporting event. It is one of the last remaining slices of life not bound by normal, civilized behavior. The person in your office who has never been to work on time a day in their life and says little throughout the day is the same person who will turn up to the event four hours early painted from head to toe, wearing a giant foam hand and singing fight songs. Give said person a $13 plastic bottle of beer or two and they will soon be saying more during one quarter to the referee on the sideline than they have in two year’s worth of budget meetings. Some who have never shed tears even at a funeral will get glassy eyed at the mention of that overtime loss in the playoffs last year. Sure, men often get a bad rap for not being emotional or in-tune with their feelings but that’s in relation to things like wives, anniversaries and births; when it comes to two-point conversions and walk-off homeruns a sports fan can often be found embracing the shirtless stranger next to them and exclaiming their feelings in a way that would make Dr. Phil proud.

Further, all of the above is only what one finds in the seats surrounding the game; let’s not forget about what transpires within the games themselves. Sure, it might be inappropriate for your boss to tear off his blazer and throw it on the ground in frustration during the next staff meeting…but not in a game. If it gets to halftime and your coach is still wearing his blazer and hasn’t yet trampled on it like a tantrum-prone toddler you just witnessed history. Sure, others might perceive you as crazy and pompous if after closing the next sale you rip your tie from your shirt and throw it into the Accounts Receivable department as you pound your chest and raise a number one in the air…but not in a game. Make that little rubber ball go through that big net and of course you have the honor of tossing your head band in the stands and pounding your chest. Sure, your construction career might be short lived if only three out of every ten buildings you built didn’t collapse or as an attorney you only won three out of every ten cases…but again, not in a game. Average three hits for every ten times your at bat and you’ll have to set up an off-shore account just to contain all your money…

Hey, I am one of the 97 million who have never met a single player on either team, nor could ever dream of affording a ticket to the game, nor will ever see a fraction of what the players make and yet was glued to the screen as I am every year not just for the Super Bowl but every major championship.

However I think…I just need a time out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Re-cession, Re-examination

The words “Change” and “Maverick” dominated the airwaves and rang in our ears in the weeks leading up to the Election. But over the last few weeks in the land of buzz words and pop-culture phraseology, there’s a new sheriff in town – Recession.

Ever since the polls closed in November with no hanging chads to be found and America named a new President, the word taking up residence in the headlines and bottom-of-the-TV-tickers starts with “Re” and ends with “Cession.” As America struggles to precisely define the cause of such a recession as well as its scope, many continue to sink deeper and deeper in despair. In the midst of such a desperate slide, people look back at the Great Depression and search for similarities while at the same time straining to look forward and speculate just how bad it will get.

While many continue to debate if this is merely the financial version of Y2K – all bark and no bite – or the real arrival of economic anorexia for our generation; let’s not panic quite yet.
First, we are a group of people obsessed with comparisons and with a passion for labeling everything as “the modern ________” or the “next _________.” Let’s wait to cross bridges if and when we get to them.

Secondly, while there are certainly some industries and groups of people who are hurting worse than others, and for those groups we mourn, for many this time is simply causing a return from complete and utter excess to a more normal existence. Maybe the yacht or the vacation home is lying a little more dormant than usual; maybe public transportation is now a more common occurrence; maybe dining in makes more sense than taking-out.

Not for all, but for many these times simply mean less “stuff” and Lord knows that might be good for you and I. Perhaps during these times, one will have to begin counting their blessings and riches that aren’t as tangible – things like freedom, family, health, and love. But when looked at that way – aren’t those things we can’t touch, can’t claim on our taxes, really what matters?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Are you a good person?

There is a new game show on Fox called The Moment of Truth. The game show works like this: Prior to the show a contestant is hooked up to a polygraph and asked a series of 50 questions that get progressively more personal and probing. The results from the polygraph are documented but not shown to the contestant. The contestant then is placed on the show before the live audience, which will include family, friends, and spouse, and asked 21 of the same questions. If they answer the question in accordance to how the polygraph documented the truth then they win money and have a chance to keep answering more questions for increasingly more money.
Before reading the rest of this post you need to watch this 3 minute YouTube clip from a recent episode. It will be well worth your time.
This last question - by which Lauren lost all of the money - is profound on so many levels. First, the scenario implies that on the original polygraph she also answered "yes" to the question of whether or not she is a good person but the polygraph detected hints of dishonesty, meaning that deep down in her most honest gut she realizes she is not a good person but she suppresses the realization - only to be betrayed by a device that can measure physiological responses which trump what we may say. This is incredible because it echoes exactly what we are told in Romans:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (1:18)
"They show that the work of the Law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse our even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus." (2:15,16)
Secondly, the entire premise and appeal of the show would not even be possible if what our culture tells us true - that there is no moral absolute and no natural law. If there are no moral absolutes than 1) why is honesty prized? 2) why is it wrong, or at the very least socially frowned upon, to lie? 3)whose to say all of the things she fesses up to are wrong? 4) why is behavior such as adultery shocking? Adultery might be wrong for Audience Member A but its's right for her.
Further, if there is no such thing as natural law written on our hearts, no instinctual sense of right and wrong, why does Lauren know (albeit subconsciously) that there is some idea of a "good person" but that she falls short of it? Something about her behavior causes her to doubt her intrinsic goodness but that causes her to feel shameful and thus tries to convince herself and others that she really is good.
But Lauren's feelings, the feelings of her family, the entire premise of the show, and the uncomfortable response that it illicits from us should not happen if there is no God, and no moral standard, and no absolutes.
But the game show had 23 million viewers in its debut.
And Fox has just ordered more episodes.
I know its just TV and all that comes with that. But think about the premise of this show for just...a moment.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

All About the Benjamins

Outreach magazine just recently released its annual Special Issue featuring the list of America's 100 Largest Churches and 100 Fastest Growing Churches. Of course, people have many different reactions to such a statistical breakdown of spirituality. Some see numbers as the indisputable, tell-all indicator. Others feel that numbers are in no way indicative of overall health. Still others, like myself, are somewhere in the middle.

In either case, the issue is always a fascinating one. They define "fastest growing" as a church's membership increase by percentage and raw numbers in the past year. The fastest growing church in America this time last year was Iglesia Cristiana Segadores de Vida in Hollywood, FL. It originally started as a house-church system and has spawned into the 69th overall largest church in the U.S.

Here are the current top 10 largest churches in America:

1. Lakewood Church - Houston, TX
2. Second Baptist Church - Houston, TX
3. North Point Community Church - Alpharetta (Atlanta), GA
4. Willow Creek Community Church - South Barrington (Chicago), IL
5. - Edmond (Ok. City), OK
6. West Angeles Cathedral - Los Angeles, CA
7. Fellowship Church - Grapevine, TX
8. Saddleback Church - Lake Forest, CA
9. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale - Fort Lauderale, FL
10. The Potter's House - Dallas, TX

There is so much more to be said about all of this, so stay tuned. Also give your feedback on this concept. One thing that immediately hit me when looking at the list was the fact of Houston, TX featuring the 2 largest churches in America. As I noticed that, the comment that was made by some after Katrina hit New Orleans came to mind - remember when some misinformed Christians insisted New Orleans was hit directly as a result of the city's illicit sin? Surely in some way natural disasters are a result of sin's presence in the world at large and are a result of man's fall - but let's be honest all of our cities are deserving in that case. Further, if that is the criteria for where hurricane's make landfall it's interesting that Ike would choose Houston - home to the 2 largest Christian churches...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Micah 7:18-20

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Dark Continent Shines

The United Methodist Church met for its General Conference last week in Fort Worth, TX. One of the hot-button issues that was addressed - as is happening in many "mainline denominations" - was the issue of homosexuality. Many leaders in the UMC - following the moral decline of many of their ecumenical brothers - have been pushing for the General Conference to revise its current stance on homosexuality in the church which states, "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." Many of the leaders are pushing for such a statement to either be removed entirely or adjusted to "refrain from judgment" on the issue.

Thankfully, the General Conference voted to keep it's stance on homosexuality in tact. That it is indeed "incompatible with Christian teaching." The margin was narrow, but nonetheless, decisive. The very telling factor though through all of this was that many of the American UMC leaders who desire for the UMC to change its stance on homosexuality, begrudgingly blame the fact that it didn't change on the ever-incresing presence of UMC representatives from Africa at the General Conference. Christianity in general is exploding in Africa, and the denomination of Methodism is no exception. As such, the African UMC sends more and more leaders to the General Conference each time, and such leaders are usually more conservative, dare I say more Biblically committed than many in the American arena. Their voice being heard in this important vote demonstrates this.

This fact only confirms the reality we as American Christians are progressively coming to terms with...we no longer set the spiritual tone. The Church around the world is surpassing us in its devotion, conviction and zeal. A place like the "Dark Continent" is being seen as a misnomer. The West may still be more technologically advanced but in the economy of Grace, a place like the Dark Continent is a beacon of light to the American church; calling her to a higher standard.

This fact only confirms that the next Great Awakening; the next great Gospel movement; the next Reformation of any kind will probably not originate on American soil where we shed blood in the Worship Wars (contemporary or traditional?) but in the lands around the globe where the soil is rich with the blood of the martyrs and yet the Gospel pushes on.

American much longer till this term is seen as contradictory around the world?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What if God was one of us?

We're all familiar with the Joan Osbourne song from back in the day...

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on a bus
trying to make his way home...

It was (still is) a catchy tune with simple chords and simplistic theology...

The other night I watched Evan Almighty - the sequel to Bruce - featuring Steve Carell as the man chosen to build an Ark ("the weirdo with a beardo") by "God" who is played by Morgan Freeman. I absolutely love both Bruce and Evan - they're by no means epic, award-winning films but they are tightly spun yarns that entertain for 90 minutes, make you laugh and if you notice actually make you think. I would by no means describe either as a Gospel film but it does make the average viewer think a little more of Biblical concepts - even if they are skewed - than one normally would.

What fascinates me about these movies is the fact that others, including Hollywood, are fascinated and entertained by the idea of God becoming man, in this case a black man who looks like he's in his sixties and is of average build and temperment. The movies would lack their punch and entertaining quality if this element were missing from the movie. If God was just a voice but was never seen in human form, the movies would be far less intriguing.

This is what I love about these movies.

It's our culture admitting that deep down the idea of God taking on human form and walking among us does resonate. The idea is woven into the fabric of who we are. Greek mythology takes it too far, humanizes it too much and created a system of "gods" that were immature, indesicive, susceptible to error and more "human" than humans. But the idea, the crazy notion of God taking on human form and coming down to us - to intervene and help us - resonates.

It's part of who we are.
We want to believe.
It's what caused us to whistle the Joan Osbourne song.
God was one of us...
Although He wasn't a slob...He is Savior...
And He wasn't trying to find His way home...but to show us how to get home...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Great American Race
This is me writing the first sentence of a blog about NASCAR.
And I can't believe it.

I have never been a racing fan. I do drive a pick-up truck and I did spend a good portion of my childhood in central Florida but I could just never get into a sport consisting entirely of left-turns.

The Daytona 500 though has always caught my attention every year. Growing up in Deltona (an unincorporated town that was in between Daytona and Deland, hence the creative name of Deltona) I witnessed the masses descend on Daytona Beach every February in all of their jean shorted glory. The interstate would be jammed with RV's descending on central Florida, stocked with cases of cheap domestic beer, on their way to pay homage to the tailgate mecca. The city would buzz - literally and figuratively - the week leading up to the race. I never did make it to a race but knew then and still hear now that even if you are not a racing fan that the Daytona 500 is one of the great spectacles in sport. If you can somehow make it to the infield (the grassy area in the middle of the track) with a camper it is supposed to be incredible. Well if you define incredible by consuming grilled meat and beer for a week.
Again this year's Daytona 500 - the Great American Race - in it's 50th anniversary caught my attention. First off, the top two finishers drove Dodge cars - in fact 6 out of the top 8 cars were Dodge, which makes me proud. But the most intriguing part of racing is the very complicated relationship between teammates. NASCAR in its structure is kinda like the English Premier League. There are a few elite, cash-laden teams backed by powerful, affluent owners who dominate the sport. Lately in NASCAR you have Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports taking up much of the limelight due to their charasmatic owners, deep pockets, and signing of glamorous drivers. Then you have the manufacturer's who sign on - agreeing to produce a car to the right specifications and to the right fit for your driver's who will hopefully steer them to victory. Thus you have the conglomerate of people, money, egos, pride, power, and product all working together but also looking out for their own good in an attempt to hopefully generate a win and satisfy everybody - from fans to sponsors, etc.

But it is the relationship of drivers that is still most crucial. Your team's 4 or 5 main drivers must get along because their chemistry on the track is key. Drivers work together, blocking other team's drivers, drafting drivers, in an attempt to hopefully propel someone from their own team to victory. Thus, in the purest form of racing you will usually have to have one driver from a team take a "backseat" to a teammate if it is evident that on that given day the teammate's car is faster or he is driving better or in a better position to win. And so what is created - more so than sometimes what can be seen in other sports - is this unique relationship where men have to battle between their own desires to win and the chance to sacrifice themselves, and take a less glamorous position, for the greater good of their team.

And that is what happened in this year's race. JGR driver's led almost the entire race until on the last lap a Penkse driver by the name of Newman ("Hello Newman..."), who hadn't won a race in over 2 years recieved a push from behind by one of his teammates that enabled his car to gain the necessary speed for a pass into first place. "Kurt was the push from heaven that made it all happen," Newman said. "Without a doubt, he could have easily gone three-wide and split us through the center and made one heck of a mess there. But he chose to be a teammate, and that was the most honorable thing that he could do." (

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bono on the (really) Big Screen

If you have even the slightest hint of affection for U2 then you must do yourself a favor:
go see U2 in 3-D at the Imax theater downtown.
Even if you don't consider yourself a U2 fan you should still go. You just might come out one.
It is an incredible experience. They take footage from about 7 or 8 concerts on U2's South American tour and combine it incredibly seamlessly to produce one hour and a half concert that is incredibly life-like.
I can at times be a Postman-ian sympathizer who bemoans our complete and total addiction to newer and better technology especially when invention becomes a substitute for experience. Like when we buy a fake Christmas tree but also buy a Christmas-tree scented candle to simulate the experience. I have been guilty of this and when you think about it its kinda ridiculous.
This Imax experience though is one of those times where you just sit back in awe of what can now-a-days be packaged and sold for $12.00. This Imax concert experience is pretty darn close to being there - plus it's with better sound and plush comfortable chairs.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Somewhere between 14th and 59th

I love the way, the way you carry on
You make me wanna sing,
you make me wanna sing another love song
Sing another love song
Bury my head for the shame,
you pick me up
Though it makes no sense to me
you make me believe that I could trust someone
that I could ever trust someone
Through flame, I touch the fire,
you know that I still burn for you
Flood water rain crash down,
soak the ground,
still I thirst for you
Sing another love song,
you make me wanna sing another love song

- taken from Jars of Clay "Sing"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


He'll still rock a full suit on the sidelines
He's kinda got the whole mad scientist look going on.
His name isn't always brought up when discussing Hall of Fame legends.
But, in his own way, he just may be the greatest college football coach ever.

He made "The U" what it is today and you may not know it but he's been in our backyard for a while now, working his magic again at...



  • Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    No Country for Old Men

    No Country for Old Men is the latest effort put forth by the heralded and somewhat cultic Cohen Brothers (directors of Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou, Blood Simple).

    And what an effort it is.
    The film's setting is West Texas in the year 1980, again displaying the Cohen brothers keen ability to master atmosphere on the screen. Texas is an iconic enough location to lend legitimacy, however West Texas is also remote enough to deliver the eerie feeling of unfamiliarity the film's plot requires. And 1980 - where the 70's can be overdone with nostalgia and retro-glamour, and the late 80's still a little too familiar and stereotypical- 1980 seems unassuming, almost forgetable and yet haunting when matched with the locale, characters and plot of this masterful tale.

    The film is grim and gritty, filled with browns, greys, lingering shots of prarie life, stomach knotting dialogue, and coldsweat suspense. If you're familiar with the Cohen brothers, then my friend Rick's comment is well stated - No Country is Fargo minus Raising Arizona. Where Fargo hits hard at times, it also lets up and gives those moments of dark comical relief. Let's you catch your breath. No Country hits you from the opening scene and doesn't stop. The word I still haven't found a more accurate substiture for to describe the film is relentless.

    "The story begins when Llewelyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a sentry of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law - in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell - can contain. As Moss tries to evade his pursuers - in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives - the film simultaneously strips down the American crime drama and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible, and as bloodily contemporary as this morning's headlines." (

    Remember two things:

    1) The Cohen bros. directed this film -enough said.

    2) The film's villian is honestly worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Hannibal Lecter - not as grotesque but equally efficient and brilliant. The difference though is that when watching Silence and Hannibal, in the back of your mind you are always kinda thinking, Man, Anthony Hopkins is an incredible actor, thus keeping you somewhat tethered to the reality that you're watching a performance. In No Country, the villian is played by someone not as noteworthy (at least here in America) but played with such equal brilliance that you for several moments think he could be real.

    I could say more...but just see this movie. But maybe not on a date. It's not the warm and fuzzy type. Then again Jerry Seinfeld did make out in Schindler's List...

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    Costumes, Fun-Size Candy, and...God?

    Halloween is behind us and we are fast approaching the next major holiday on the calendar, Thanksgiving. Before we totally trade in our bags of fun-size candy bars (by the way, never understood what was "fun" about eating a tiny candy bar, aren't the King Size ones more "fun?") and pumpkins though, I have been thinking about the idea of dressing up in costumes - the concept that so marks the most recent holiday of Halloween.
    It's great.

    The idea of dressing up like another person, or an animal, or a food, character, etc. The thought, money and time that can go into costumes is funny. And of course, that is what makes Halloween legendary, its what makes it arguably the most unique holiday. For a night, you can let loose, be whoever you want to be, fraternize with strangers AND get free candy - what's not to love? Granted, this year I was that guy who didn't dress up in a crowd of people who did, but that was simply for practical reasons - I love a good costume as much as the next guy.

    But it is this idea of dressing up that I think resonates.

    There are crazy costumes that we simply want others to approve of by laughing at, but then there are also costumes that while still humorous (there's always something a little comical about anyone dressed up) also have a hint of seriousness to them - maybe we dress up like someone or something we hope to be. When you're a kid you dress like a superhero because deep down, you want to be that heroic figure.

    This is our nature.

    We long for approval, we long to be more than we really are, we long to be that which we're not, we long to change. We long to cover up ourselves with something that people will see and upon seeing it, approve of. Deep down, we all can fear simply being ourselves.

    And Halloween works because for a night, there are no restraints, no limits - you can be whatever you can conjure up and for that night be identified as that thing or person. And in that way, its liberating - socially, as we can laugh and be with each other, and psychologically as we're free for a time to step out of ourselves and all of the things we don't like about us and for a moment, change.

    In a way, Halloween reminds us of the Gospel.

    We all stand on our own, full of misgivings, full of doubts and fears, full of things about us that we're self-conscious of, full of stuff we would love to change but can't, full of wrong things and full of wrong things done to us and we long for something to put on that will cover us. And change us. And makes us that which we long to be but on our own can't be.

    All humanity stands on earth in this manner, before God, and so he sends Christ to die and rise, making peace with God on our behalf. Why? So that we can put Him on, as the Bible says, "be clothed in his righteousness." We put on Christ and just like the lady at the front door, doesn't see the little kid but she sees Superman or a Princess, God looks at us and sees Christ. But unlike the costume, which can be taken on and off, in Christ we are truly changed. Slowly and sometimes painfully, but truly changed to become that which we long to be but on our own can never be.
    Truly free to be ourselves, with all of our imperfections, all of our misgivings and yet know that God looks down and says, "it's allright." It's allright, because of Christ.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    Cleaning Up the Streets

    I think every automobile manufacturer should now begin installing two types of horns in every car...
    I was sitting at a red light the other day, when it suddenly turned green, and the car in front of me failed to move. I gave the obligatory few courtesy seconds - I'm by no means the guy who has his hand already on the horn, waiting to honk a nanosecond after the light turns green, like some sort of wild west outlaw with an itchy trigger finger - and yet after the few seconds had gone by the car still wasn't moving.

    So I honked.

    And immediately felt like a jerk.

    See the normal horn - even if it is lightly tapped - sounds so angry and demanding. Granted, I drive a truck and so the horn is more pronounced than it would be in say, a Mini Cooper, but even so the problem is that the same horn is used for the jackass that cuts you off, the person about to back into you, the person drifiting into your lane, and simply the little old lady ahead of you in a light who you just want to gently remind, "Hey, I'm not angry - not even a little bit - just wanna say that the light's green."

    But the horn says it otherwise.

    It's like the Seinfeld where Jerry's bald, old uncle gets his eyebrows painted on but in a slanted fashion - from that point on anything the guy says, no matter how nice, comes across like he's angry, because he looks angry.

    The horn, no matter what, always seems angry. Like you're shaking your fist and cursing under your breath, when perhaps you're not.

    We need an alternative horn.

    Keep the standard horn and its confrontational reputation for when we really need it but give us another horn that communicates, "Hey, I'm not mad, just wanna remind you the light's green."

    The question is, what would such a horn sound like?

    Perhaps a chime of some sort?

    A melody? (Although people might think you're selling Ice Cream from your car and that's no good - unless of course you really are selling Ice Cream but that would involve getting a van, a mustache and a rap sheet)

    What should the sound of the horn be?

    Thursday, November 01, 2007


    "Jesus paid it all

    all to Him I owe

    Sin had left a crimson stain

    He washed it white as snow..."

    -Elvina Hall, 1865

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007


    "Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade,
    To write the love of God above,
    Would drain the ocean dry.
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky."

    - Frederick Lehman, 1917

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007


    This is a very interesting article regarding some statements put out by Willow Creek Church, arguably the most influential evangelical church in America for the last couple of decades - for better or for worse. There is little debate regarding the influence of a place like Willow Creek over America's evangelical congregations, the question that is debated is whether or not such influence is a positive one. Willow Creek is preaching the Gospel, don't hear me wrong, its just Willow Creek pioneered and perfected the ultra-programmed, megachurch phenomenon that is finally beginning to be reexamined and this article brings some interesting insight into such a conversation....

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Drink Up!

    There's a great little book worth your time entitled, "A History of the World in 6 Glasses" by Tom Standage. In a very original motif Standage traces the ebb and flow of human history by identifying 6 signature beverages that, as he sets out to prove, define one of the major epochs of our history - from Stone Age to Present.

    This is a very unique idea and it got me thinking how in a microcosm kinda way the same principle applies to daily life. Now I am by no means comparing my inconqsequential daily life to the epochs of historical progress but, most of us throughout the day are accompanied by a beverage that encapsulates what time of the day it is and what we are trying to accomplish.

    For me I begin every morning of every day with that steaming cup of coffee - the aromatic lifeblood for us nightowls who curse the daylight when it seemingly arrives earlier every morning.

    Catch me at midday and you'll find some sort of carbonated beverage packed with the fuel of the working class - high fructose corn syrup and caffeiene.

    It is the evenings, after work, that are accompanied by formented friends - wine or beer - to bid adue to the day and greet the coming night.

    And through it all, redeeming our daily grinds and forty hour weeks, are those special occassions. Those uncompartmentalized moments where real, actual, soak-it-up, LIFE happens...

    curled up in a leather chair, sipping on a warm mug, as the rain fogs up the glass of your favorite coffee shop...

    a day's labor coming to an end, atop the tailgate of that beatup truck, reaching for that icy brew...

    dinner with that someone, on a white linen table, accented by the pale yellow glow of moonlight and the sparkle of pinot...

    And on and on it goes...from study sessions at Starbucks to toasts at weddings from wine in moderation at dinner to beer cans strapped to helmets at stadiums...Life is documented through the beverages we find clutched in our hands.
    There is this fascinating remark by Jesus at the end of the Last Supper,

    "...I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom..."

    Won't that be a glorious day? As the final redemption occurs, our Savior breaking his fast from wine to welcome the fulness of his Bride, and us standing in our glorified bodies at that Great Wedding Feast, arm in arm with Christ - a chalice in his nail-scarred hand and a chalice in yours and mine.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    Fourth Floor Oracle

    Hazy light begs it way
    Through the grey lazy sky
    As overstuffed cumulus droop
    And hang in the air so thick
    The sky resembling those forts made by children
    Ones with dining room chair fortification
    And downy-fresh blanket roofs
    Grey has lately asserted itself
    Barometric contractions
    that signal the soon coming labor of winter
    as summer will soon scurry to sabbatical
    eloping to its solstice with the eternal daylight
    and taking up residency will be winters pageantry

    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Two Step

    I attended the Dave Matthews Concert the other night in West Palm.

    This yearly ritual was held in the underappreciated venue that is Sound Advice Amphitheatre. There's always something a little magical about making that drive out on Southern Boulevard - the eclectic surroundings of an airport, run-down houses and undeveloped property - an artery of a road that really is aptly named, much more closely related to old cracker West Palm than its upstart debutant sibling of guilded Palm Beach...turn back east and you can end up on that pristine and prestigious shore...keep heading west and you'll end up on the backward, haunting yet timeless banks of Lake Okeechobee and all its lore...but in between lies the amphitheatre and its there you'll be greeted by music carried on the wind, planes with their flickering lights roaring overhead, smoke billowing around you....

    and thick crowds of people.

    And it happens everytime I'm there for a big show that inevitably as the night thickens and the band carries on that I will look around, the music fading to the background for just a second, and I will think to myself, "Look at all of these people."

    All different yet not without similiarities, all journeying through this life, all coming to the show for some intention of having a good time

    All made in the image of God.

    And it's times like that- under that endless sky and surrounded by those euphoric crowds - where I remember just how small I really am. That on the shores of humanity I am but a grain of sand.

    And yet the amazing balance and tension of it all is that even in my insignificance and low stature in the height of history the Creator-Redeemer loves me. And He makes me significant and makes me have worth not of my own but because of his love for me.

    That even though we are grains of sand on the shores of humanity, his waves of mercy and love wash over us.

    " Love you came to me like wine comes to this mouth grown tired of water all the time. You quench my heart and you quench my mind..."
    - "Two Step" DMB

    Saturday, September 15, 2007

    Psalm 118

    1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
    2 Let Israel say:
    "His love endures forever."
    3 Let the house of Aaron say:
    "His love endures forever."
    4 Let those who fear the LORD say:
    "His love endures forever."
    5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.
    6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
    7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.
    8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
    9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
    10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
    11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
    12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
    13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.
    14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
    15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous:
    "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things!
    16 The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!"
    17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
    18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
    19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
    20 This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.
    21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
    22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
    23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
    24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    two three and six

    laying awake on my bed
    another sleepless night
    it's here that i am brave
    it's here that i am cavalier
    full of bright ideas and things i'd love to say
    had this night come right before i saw you today

    for when i am sleepless and alone
    i am clever and smooth and downright eloquent
    its when i see you face to face
    under the sunlight, with life in your eyes
    that i'm over-analytical and all together tongue-tied

    Friday, August 31, 2007


    Just a couple thoughts:

    I was listening to the Gospel of Matthew today. That's right listening. A couple of years ago at Christmas I was given the Bible on CD by my uncle. It's awesome, it's like 200 CD's, it's crazy. And I've listened to it sporadically since then but this semester I am in a NT class and so I have resurrected the CD's and have been listening to them in order to keep up with the class. There is great power in listening to the Word of God. It really comes alive. We have done ourselves a great disservice by relegating the Bible to just being read in private devotional times alone and/or not having times in our church services or Bible studies where we simply read aloud the Word of God together and let it speak for itself. There is great power in the Word. We must remember that this is what would have occurred in NT times. When Paul wrote a letter to Corinth, chances are he only wrote one copy and thus the people would have to gather round and hear the Word read to them. May we remember to sometimes do the same. We must talk less and let the Word speak more. Try it if you haven't. Go grab the CD's or download tracks from Itunes (yes they have it) or better yet record yourself reading text...It's powerful.

    Secondly, as I listened to Matthew I realized anew what a bad, bad, bad man I am. And I don't mean bad like the guys who own "Bad Ass Boys Drive Bad Ass Toys" bumper stickers. I mean it more like Babu, the Pakistani friend of Jerry's on Seinfeld who reminds him, "Jerry you are a verrry, verrry bad man..."

    The sermon on the mount is sobering. Sure, there might be degrees of sin. Is speaking evil of your brother quite AS BAD as actually killing at least that's the debate. But let us not pawn this off. Jesus is clearly telling us, "You're much, much worse than you even think." We are sinful to the very core of our being. We are so desperate for grace. The sermon on the mount must convict us. Let us not view it as a license to be "big picture" and lax with our conviction. Let us stop calling our Christian friends who possess much, much more conviction than we do pharisaical. Let us view the sermon on the mount for what it is...a reminder of how hopelessly sinful we really are...and how gracious Christ really is.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007


    There is a house up on the hill
    The yard is fenced and green
    There are regal, shade giving trees and even a little windmill
    The shutters are pulled back letting light in pristine

    Walking up to this house up on the hill
    With each step the gravel crunches under feet
    With the sound ringing of birds chirping shrill
    Wooing me with the escaping smell of something sweet

    I am a guest in this house up on the hill
    I am expected but walk slowly to the door
    I crunch the gravel, bask in the shade, twirl the windmill
    Inquiring to no one but myself why I feel I've been here before

    Looking to the door I knock firmly but not too hard
    Learning quickly audacity is rarely present here
    Loved by that smile, welcome mat under feet, I enter and leave the yard
    Longing to make the dream of this house a reality so clear

    Inside this house up on the hill
    I exchange pleasantries and make small talk
    Indifferent to the scattered toys and table piled with bills
    Inviting others in, growing the din of conversation, I excuse myself for a walk

    Green too is the backyard of this house up on the hill
    Graced serenely by twilight sky and aqua blue pool
    Going down the patio steps taking it in, the night promises to chill
    Giving my pockets hands to hold I walk to the fence as the sky fills with jewels

    How do I feel welcome in this house up on the hill?
    Hell, its more then welcome, its down right familiar
    Hoping to find the journey’s end here in Pleasantville
    Holding my life’s breath without the oxygen of her

    Turning back to the door the twilight has matured to night
    Taking my hands out of my pockets I retrace my steps
    Trading night sky for lamp shaded light
    This feeling is familiar but not mine quite yet


    Is Bono a born-again Christian or is he not?
    That is the question that many U2 fans, especially Christian ones, continually debate.
    My opinion is that there ain't no question Bono knows the Gospel and knows Grace - his lyrics and life tell of this - the question though in my mind always has been whether he believes in the exclusivity of Christ - does he believe Jesus is the only way?
    That's where it all hinges.
    I hope that he does.

    I hope that the greatest front-man of all time will be singing in the choirs of heaven.
    But I am not the judge.
    But for a moment, regardless of all that and regardless of our position on Bono there is something amazing about the u2 anthem "Yahweh."
    I was watching one of their concert dvd's the other night and there is something to be said about a band and a stadium, containing a sea of people, singing under the lights the holy covenant name of God.
    Admitedly a lot of them probably don't give it a second thought...but some do.
    And when the lights fade in and out and you hear the stadium echo "Yahweh...Yahwehhhh..." it's pretty darn incredible...

    Take these shoes
    Click clacking down some dead end street
    Take these shoes
    And make them fit
    Take this shirt
    Polyester white trash made in nowhere
    Take this shirt
    And make it clean, clean
    Take this soul
    Stranded in some skin and bones
    Take this soul
    And make it sing

    Yahweh, Yahweh
    Always pain before a child is born
    Yahweh, Yahweh
    Still I’m waiting for the dawn

    Take these hands
    Teach them what to carry
    Take these hands
    Don’t make a fist
    Take this mouth
    So quick to criticise
    Take this mouth
    Give it a kiss

    Yahweh, Yahweh
    Always pain before a child is born
    Yahewh, Yahweh
    Still I’m waiting for the dawn
    Still waiting for the dawn, the sun is coming up
    The sun is coming up on the ocean
    This love is like a drop in the ocean
    This love is like a drop in the ocean

    Yahweh, Yahweh
    Always pain before a child is born
    Yahweh, tell me now
    Why the dark before the dawn?

    Take this city
    A city should be shining on a hill
    Take this city
    If it be your will
    What no man can own, no man can take
    Take this heart
    Take this heart
    Take this heart
    And make it break
    "Yahweh" -U2

    Saturday, August 18, 2007


    come here
    you're so far away
    and i can't take it
    not tonight
    not tomorrow
    not anymore
    for even though my life is young
    its passing
    with an ever coming consistency
    thats terrifying
    and i don't want to spend another day of it
    without you
    but rather I want to share it
    every mountain
    and ever valley
    every high
    and every low
    every tear
    and every laugh
    with you

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007


    "...stuck on the end of this ball and chain
    and i'm on my way back down again
    stood on a bridge, tied to the noose

    sick to the stomach
    you can say what you mean
    but it won't change a thing
    i'm sick of the secrets

    stood on the edge, tied to a noose

    You came along and you cut me loose
    You came along and you cut me loose
    You came along and you cut me loose..."

    -"Amsterdam" by Coldplay

    Christ has cut me free from the noose of sin and death. Although daily I find myself trying to slip by neck back into it...I don't want to...but my behavior and constant disobedience and constant entanglement in ridiculous sin that should be conquered by now seems to prove otherwise.

    Cut me loose I pray and burn the rope. For all too often do I return to that tempting yet deadly twine.

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Changing Lanes

    I've really rediscovered the joy of the Blockbuster rental lately. Don't get me wrong I thoroughly enjoy a good theatre outing - big screen, big popcorn - but the rental is great too. No lines, lower prices, no one kicking the back of your seat, not having your feet get stuck to the floor because there is a 10 year old layer of carbonation and candy on the ground - it's great. Furthermore if there is nothing worth paying the hefty ticket price at the theatre currently, you can always find something tucked away in the Blockbuster aisles.

    Last night I picked up Changing Lanes featuring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson. Ever since Pearl Harbor I have never been able to look at Ben Affleck the same way but because of my unhealthy obsession with Good Will Hunting and the absurd amount of times that I have seen it I will forever give Affleck the benefit of the doubt and still watch his current movies. Samuel L. Jackson has played an incredibly diverse and sometimes random amount of roles in his career but usually can always be counted on to deliver a solid performance.
    Changing Lanes revolves around these two men - Gavin (Affleck) is partner in a high profile law firm that deals with municipal finance while Doyle (Jackson) is an insurance salesman battling his past, alcoholism and battling for his marriage or at least joint custody of his children. On one fateful day the two men are speeding along on the freeway - Gavin on his way to a hearing where his law firm is being sued for the mishandling of a large charity's funds (of which they are guilty - they stole 3 million dollars from the charity) and Doyle is on his way to a custody hearing, the last and most important one of his life as a father, the one where he finally had the chance to prove he had gotten his act together (which he had) - as they speed along Gavin (Affleck)changes lanes and crashes into Doyle's (Jackson) car.

    As this accident couldn't have come at a worse time for either man - Gavin's carreer and Doyle's family are at stake here on this day - Gavin tries to offer Doyle a blank check for him to fix any damage as he just needs to get the heck out of there whereas Doyle wants to swap insurance and do it the right way as he needs to not do anything to jeopardize his newly cleaned up image. Gavin doesn't have time for this, throws him the blank check and begins to speed off. As it begins to rain, Doyle asks him for a ride into town (Gavin's car is driveable still where Doyle's is totaled) to which Gavin responds, "Sorry, better luck next time."

    The plot thickens when it turns out that Gavin had dropped the file on which his whole case pivots at the scene of the accident and Doyle managed to pick it up. After Doyle loses his custody hearing after being a half-hour late because of the accident - a hearing which he would have probably won for he really had become a changed man - he throws everything in his hands away in disgust, including the file Gavin needs. After another run-in with Gavin whereby Doyle learns of the importance of the file, Doyle salvages it from the garbage can and a battle of wills ensues. How far will Gavin go to get back this file - his inconsideration earlier already screwed Doyle over, will he now go even further to get what he needs? After learning how precious this file is to Gavin, how long can Doyle fight the seductive calling of revenge before he takes matters into his own hands and tries to make Gavin experience the same pain he feels?

    I enjoyed this movie and chose to blog on it for 2 reasons:

    First, it does a good job of showing the wavering moral compass man possesses - even sometimes for us as Christians. The Golden Rule, the Sermon on the Mount, the Fruit of the Spirit, etc. are all good and well on paper or in our lives when we are not tried. The question is does our moral compass or will our commitment to a certain ethic change under great duress? How rigid is the "Due North" line, so to speak, on the compass of our morality or Christian ethic? I know for me in my own life my commitment to the Lord, my appreciation of his grace, my desire for holiness is sky high when things are constantly falling into place, but as soon as one bad day comes along I all too often listen to that seductive call to abandon waiting on the Lord or seeking his face to instead take matters into my own hands or just simply grow bitter and jaded. Or what about our standards for life? The Christian life is great on paper but how committed are we to really live it out once we are on our own - living without the watchful eye of parents, teachers, roommates, etc.? It is said that character is what you do when no one is what are we doing?

    Secondly, I enjoyed this movie because of the perspective it brings. There is a reason why "Crap Happens" attained bumper-sticker-status...because it does. All the time. We live in a broken world, full of broken people doing broken things and being victims of broken things. A lot of people have more bad days then good. The writer of this blog and most of you who read this don't fall into that category - we are blessed beyond belief - but so many people are not. So many people experience things and have days and go through stuff that we can't imagine. So many people when we bump into them on the street act in a way that makes us think they are a huge jerk and sometimes they simply may be that, but sometimes they may have been through things earlier in the day that we can't imagine and we must be sensitive to that. Especially in ministry - we must be able to look at people and see past the skin to the heart issues. People have wounds and scars and pasts that may cause them to act in certain ways and we must be sensitive and keen to that.
    So pick it up if you haven't seen the movie - it was entertaining and also thought provoking and while I may have given away a lot there is more to see.
    And while another bumper sticker tells us that "mean people suck" let's remember "unloving, insensitve and morally indecent Christians suck more."

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Searching Sheets and Circumstances

    Eyes wide open pupils dilating to the dark they are adjusting
    Light departs to its slumber giving way to this black hole of night and thought
    Imagination wide open heart palpitates to the solitude its not adjusting
    One of those nights where sleep fled with the light, left alone with a battle to be fought

    A flickering chandelier casts shadows over soul and body
    Shadows of over-analyzed pasts, discontent presents and paranoid futures
    Searching sheets and circumstances for anything to hold me
    Air condition rythym and rotating fans are the only things here of which I am sure

    Accepting sleep’s betrayal it is now to daylight I turn my hope
    Looking for the dawn’s fingers to pry through my curtains
    For under blazing sunlight there is at least one less shadow with which to cope

    Sleep starved eyes strain, adjusting to the sun
    Feeling the warmth but being pained by the vision it brings
    So my heart strains to have your vision, to let you be the only one

    To understand that contentment will never come with the touch of someone

    Take away this longing
    Take away this longing
    Take away this longing

    “…Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
    Naught be all else to me, save that thou my art
    Thou my best thought, by day or by night
    Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light…”

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    1 Corinthians 5

    I am the immoral brother
    Expel me from this place
    I keep chasing after another
    Scoffing at your grace

    I read and yet must not believe
    Words never reaching my heart but stopping at my face
    "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear twas grace my fears relieved..."
    Maybe the alarm failed, I missed the precious Hour, now disqualified from the race

    I am the immoral brother
    Expel me from this place
    I keep chasing after another
    Scoffing at your grace

    What would Paul say to a man of my hypocrisy?
    A man given double portion
    And yet failing basic spiritual decency
    Proclaiming the Bread of Life
    Claiming to refute cultural fables
    And yet would this man himself even be invited to the table?

    I am the immoral brother
    Deserving explusion from this place
    Deserving disqualifaction from the race
    For my continual scoffing at your grace
    And my pathetic attempts to save face
    Starting to wonder if my clay was designed for the noble and not for the base
    For if you desire obedience and not sacrifice
    How do I take confidence in a life filled with vice?

    What a wretched man that I am!
    Deliver me from this body of death!
    All my life…take over!
    Starting with this breath…

    I am the immoral brother
    But expel me not from this place
    Stop my feet from chasing
    And bind me to your grace

    Monday, July 30, 2007

    Keeping Up With the Wangs: The Rise of the Middle-Class in China

    This is a fascinating (and slightly frightening) article about the economic - and as a result massive construction boom - occurring in China.

  • Keeing Up With the Wangs