thoughts about the church, from an odd little paragraph
Thursday August 31st 2006, 5:51 pm
Filed under: church, thinking..., books

reading nathaniel west’s , i stumbled through this paragraph, where the protagonist is trying to hold the drunken woman of his affections, who has recently turned to prostitution:

raging at him, she was still beautiful. that was because her beauty was structural, like a tree’s, not a quality of her mind or heart. perhaps even whoring couldn’t damage it for that reason, only age or accident or disease.

i love the church. my life’s work is to serve christ by serving the church (specifically, youth workers in the church). but i can still be cranky about the bride occasionally, right? when i read these few sentences, i instantly thought of the church; more specifically, of the american church; more specifically, of that segment of the american church that continues to be passionate about slick models and approaches, rather than by being passionate about loving people, or even passionate about loving jesus. sure, they’re not all mutually exclusive — i’ll be the first to admit that. but the idea of a church who is beautiful only for structural reasons, not because of her mind or heart; well, that just caught my attention, because i think there are a wad of ‘em out there.

but, hey, sometimes those are some pretty sexy structures!

(see the restraint i showed in this post? i didn’t even say a thing about the church whoring herself, or anything like that! well, now i did, but ya know…)

i suppose you can major in just about anything
Thursday August 31st 2006, 5:06 pm
Filed under: humor

so, just returning from texas (state motto: we like meat), i laughed to find out that texas a&m university actually offers a program in meat science. that’s right: meat science. clicking through the site, i found a helpful technical paper on “white film on jerky products” (i am not making this up), several professors of carcass composition, and one associate professor of processed meats (he teaches “vienna sausages, 101″ — ok, i did make that last part up, the course name).

books read on my personal retreat
Wednesday August 30th 2006, 7:49 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, books, youth work

locust.jpg, by nathaniel west.

mark matlock suggested this classic novel to me in a recent late night conversation during dcla about books we’ve been reading lately. it was originally published in 1939, and looks at the fictional lives of a cluster of hollywood wannabes. the difference in this and many other books about hollywood during this era is that it doesn’t deal with any stars or power-brokers (real or fictional). it’s a rather bleak look at the posing and posturing and off-kilter hopes of a group of people in a long-gone, unique and odd slice of historical american culture. not exactly a pick-me-up, the book does have an almost anthropological interest. i folded a couple pages down that had quotes that made me think of the church, for one reason or another: i’ll post about those in the days to come.

futurist.jpg, by james p. othmer.

bob carlton mailed me this novel, thinking i would like it: he was right. wow. i loved the main character’s jaded, cynical and sarcastic comments. and there’s a whole subplot of political intrigue — kind of a grisham set in the worlds of mysterious military subcontractors and the speaking circuit of sound-bite afficanados. but at the end of the day, it’s a commentary on our obsession with wanting to know (and predict) the future. a mid-life crisis for not only the protagonist, but for the whole enterprise of future-telling. really fun read.

teen.jpg, by barbara strauch.

i’ve known of this book for a while, and have been meaning to read it. we drew from it for the core this past spring. but when kurt johnston mentioned re-reading it recently, i finally ordered it. and now i’m going to have to read it at least one more time, if not more. there’s so much critical stuff in here — amazing stuff — for every youth worker and every parent. really, this book goes to the top five of all books a youth worker has to read, and the top two or three a parent has to read. i’ve casually studied adolescent development for 25 years, and i learned so many new things in this book. please, if you’re a youth worker: read this now. there are hundreds of findings explained, and thousands of implications. but the finding that kept coming back over and over in the book is that the teenage prefrontal cortext (the frontal lobe of the brain, just behind the forehead) is still under construction, so to speak. the prefrontal cortext is responsible for so many things (which are all outlined in the book); but primarily, it’s the decision-making office for the brain. many, if not most, of the behaviors we traditionally assign to teenage impulsiveness or immaturity are directly linked to underdevelopment in this part of the brain. it’s a science book, but not a difficult read, as strauch has clearly written for a parent audience.

conversation with god on a waverunner
Wednesday August 30th 2006, 5:14 pm
Filed under: faith, personal

while zipping across lake conroe at 45mph, I was asking god what I should notice.


what about it?

you’re going fast.

crap. that’s too obvious. of course i’m going fast. i like fast.

some voice in me speaks, or god’s voice – i’m not sure (at first i dismiss it as a cliché voice – the ‘it’s obvious, stupid’ voice that only knows how to parrot what every other armchair psychologist or armchair god would say): you need to slow down.

it pisses me off. it’s way too obvious. and way too simplistic.


the voice cowers a bit (which makes it easy to conclude it’s not god). you need to slow down.

me: whatever. if that’s all you have to say, i dismiss you.

act two: 22 hours later. again zipping across lake conroe at 45mph. yesterday, the water was choppy; today, the water is mostly smooth, with occasional patches of mild chop.

it dawns on me:
when i’m going fast and the water is smooth, it’s fun and easy and feels right. but when i’m going fast and the water is choppy, it beats the crap out of me. maybe the first two or three bumps have a sense of thrill or newness or adventure; but, rather quickly, it is jarring, and feels like i’m damaging myself.

hmmm. i should notice that. s’pose it’s still fairly obvious – like the ‘you need to slow down’ thing. but not quite as much. more nuanced. and rings more true and more applicable. i don’t think i’m capable (due to choice or role or wiring or a combination) of consistent slow. it’s not me. but can i choose slow at the right time? at the right times?

i ask myself (still flying across the water), ‘what skills are necessary to navigate this?’

environmental awareness, and
speed regulation.
and, more specifically, the ability to regulate speed in response to environmental awareness.

two problems with this:
1. i’m not entirely deficient at environmental awareness. but i suck at predicting it. i can see it in the midst of it, usually a tad past the half-way point, the in-deep point.
2. i plan my calendar months in advance, sometimes a year in advance, so speed regulation (most impacted by my calendar) is extremely difficult to change in the moment.

sure, i can (in theory) be more proactive about planning cycles – making sure there are slower periods in-between the mad-rush periods (that’s why i’m here on this three-day mini-sabbatical). but that isn’t so much in response to the choppiness that is less predictable.

how do i learn to read the water out in front of me? in real life, i learned this back when i was crewing on a racing sailboat. we learned to read the water for wind. maybe i’m in a bit of self-denial: maybe i already fully know how to read the water in front of me, but don’t want to admit it, because that would provide accountability i don’t want.

and a lingering question: why do i like fast? is it merely that “i’m wired that way?” or is there more to it? is it adventure or adrenaline? is it the inherent risk involved, knowing Iim living life in a way that is ‘close to the edge’? is it arrogance, wanting to prove that i can live ‘close to the edge’ while others can’t? am i trying to prove something, that i have worth, or that my worth comes from what i do, so i have to accomplish big and more? why do i like fast?

ticket generator
Wednesday August 30th 2006, 2:09 pm
Filed under: humor


ok, this is way fun. it’s a concert ticket generator. pretend you had seats to whatever concert you want. or, like mine, pretend you were part of the show! amaze your non-internet-savvy friends.

(ht to jay howver)

mini-sabbatical re-entry
Tuesday August 29th 2006, 6:03 pm
Filed under: faith, personal, thinking..., blogs

if i stopped

if i was quiet for a minute
if i was calm
if i was still

if i turned everyone down
if i switched everything off
if i ceased looking everywhere all at once
if i was silent
if i was still

if i stayed at home
if i didn’t pick up the phone
if i was out even when i was in
if i was silent
if i was still

if i slowed

if i simply sat

if i stood on my head
and emptied out the contents

if i stopped

would you be there
would you speak to me
would i be able to hear you
would it be worth it?

if i stopped
would it be long enough?

if i was silent
would i hear anything?

if i heard something
would i know it was you?

if i did
would i be interested?

if i was
would i stop again?

(Martin Wroe from ‘When You Haven’t Got a Prayer: A journalist talk to God’; ht to paul chambers)

sorry for the days of blog silence without warning. it snuck up on me. i was in grand rapids friday morning, when our email went down as part of a change-over to the zondervan/harper collins system. for those in the office, it was only down for a bit, but required some tweaks on everyone’s computer, and mine was with me. i flew out saturday morning (after going home to san diego to sleep) for texas, to attend jeremy bush’s wedding (jeremy’s the drummer in the crowder band, and a great guy and friend of ys) and start my quarterly 3-day mini-sabbatical/spiritual retreat/silent retreat. and when i found out monday that i could get the reconfiguration done over the phone, i decided it wasn’t very conducive to my retreat purposes, so stayed off-line. i haven’t seen email since friday noon (still haven’t, won’t until i’m in the office tomorrow morning), only used my cell phone to call home once, and haven’t been online until now (sitting in the houston airport).

(just had a youth worker from sacramento walk up and say hi. too weird. nice, but weird.)

anyhow, it was a great retreat, but i’m really missing my family. i read 3 books, slept a bunch, watched 6 movies, spent 2 hours (in 1 hour intervals) on a waverunner flying across lake conroe, sat silently and listened to god, and generally shut my stinkin’ fat mouth for 3 days. i’ll have more to say about it all tomorrow.

footprints, revisited
Saturday August 26th 2006, 9:18 am
Filed under: faith, church, humor

if you’ve grown up in the church, like i have, you’ve seen the ‘footprints‘ thing (one set of footprints in the sand? “that’s when i was carrying you,” says jesus) enough to hurl. one pass through the gifts section of the christian booksellers convention leaves you plotting ways to bring bodily harm to whatever schmuck wrote that thing. so, this nice little rumination on a revised meaning pleased me to no end.

(ht to think christian)

books read this week
Friday August 25th 2006, 7:43 pm
Filed under: books

survival.jpg, by primo levi.

this is the fourth of the five books at bought at the holocaust museum bookstore in july. i also bought the sequel, which i’m pumped about reading. primo levi was a young chemist from turin, italy, who spent a year at auschwicz. while , by elie wiesel, gets all the attention, i think i connected with this book even more. there’s a tedium in levi’s book that reveals what life was really like, day to day. the chronicling of atrocities is here, but even more, levi dealves into all that he was feeling and thinking — and he was clearly a thinker. that’s what i connected with (not that i’m much of a thinker!): i was able, as the reader, to put myself in his place. it was less of a voyueristic read, and more of an invitation to join him in his thoughts and emotions. powerful, powerful stuff. as to the storyline, wiesel left the camp as part of the death march, and mentions those left in the camp because of illness. levi was one of those left in the camp, and his story of those 10 days — between the camp being deserted and the arrival of the russian forces — is “can’t stop reading for any reason” stuff. apparently, the sequel tells his story of re-emerging into life and his transition back home, which i expect to find fascinating.

belief.jpg, edited by preston jones. this book has received a few mentions in the blogosphere lately, and for good reason. apart from an extremely lame title (though a clear-as-day subtitle), it’s a great read, accessible and engaging. it’s the edited email dialogue between preston jones (a history professor at john brown university in arkansas) and greg graffin (lead singer/songwriter for the band bad religion). graffin had (at the time of their correspondance) just finished a ph.d. in zoology from cornell, with a dissertation on evolution, atheism and naturalism. jones, a whip-smart progressive evangelical, in addition to being a history prof with a good working knowledge of science, theology and philosophy, is a fan of graffin’s band. the discussion is almost always interesting — and the great thing about the book is that it is truly a dialogue. they identify some common ground and some clearly significant differences. they get a bit punchy with each other from time to time, which only adds to the readability. btw, this is one of the first releases in a new line published by IVP called ‘likewise’, aimed at younger adults and emerging culture — this book bodes well for the line.

wonderful human interest/tech story
Friday August 25th 2006, 7:27 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

very enjoyable read (with a few tech implications) about older people and the internet. worth the 3 minutes.

hilarious audio
Friday August 25th 2006, 7:27 am
Filed under: humor

this is one of the funnier things i’ve heard in a while. really. trust me on this.