Monday, January 31, 2011

Foreign Language

There's alot of back and forth in the church these days on contextualization. That's a 10 dollar word that basically means; you must know the context of your hearers so that you know how to communicate with them in the most effective way. (so they know what you're talking about)

This is (as with most things folks fight about) a continuum that swings from one side to the other, and folks can be extreme on either side. I won't post defamatory youtube clips (well, I kind of will in a second), but suffice it to say; if you wanted to find a pastor having guys jump dirt bikes in his sermon, you could find that. And, if you wanted to see a guy talk about how the rock beat is from Satan, you could find that as well.

There's much to be said about balance here. And, about "helping" your audience understand something even if it isn't in their immediate context. John Piper once famously said that if folks don't understand the lamb/sacrifice metaphors in the bible because they've never been near a farm. . . "you teach them about sheep. . . YOU DON'T LEAVE THAT OUT". It was great, I remember being in that room.

But, taking the extremes into account, here's a great example of how we have to find new ways to communicate the Gospel message in every generation. Not leaving anything of importance out, not changing the key terms. . but also not speaking in what would be a foreign language to one's audience. Am I over-exaggerating my case? Try explaining the internet to Brian Gumbel in 1994. He was basically being introduced to a foreign language:

Thursday, January 27, 2011


--Jody and I have had some stressful, non-successful shopping trips as of late. I'm considering some of these activities to spice up the proceedings.

--Don't like waiting on God? Me neither at times. This is a great article that answers the question, to some degree: Why? Why are you letting me go through this, God? We think those are the "un-answerable" questions. But, I challenge anyone to read this post, take a situation from your past that was very frustrating for you, took alot of patience. . .and see if you can't find a nugget or two of truth in here. Good Stuff. These "answers" don't answer all of the questions. But, perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to punt and say that something was "meaningless" or "didn't make any sense".

--There are differences out there on the role of women in the church. I firmly believe we, as the church, need to do a better job helping women develop their gifts and affirm them in what God has called them to do (within biblical boundaries). Regardless of your views. . check out this piece. . . had to be one of the most awkward board meetings ever! But, I think it shows a big blind spot in many of our churches.

--For the academic/theological types. . here's a great article from John Frame on the relationship between the church and societal needs. This has a been a bit of an intramural debate for a while now. If you're not aware of that debate, . . rejoice! This is still a good, informative essay.


Glee Club

I'm not a big fan of the show Glee. . . there I said it.

I feel like a better thesis might be: "Why I'm not a fan of the show Glee by someone who absolutely should be".

See, I was in the Glee Club for 3 years in High School and 2 years in College. I've been to huge, regional competitions; I've sat in the back row and made fun of other show choirs; I've felt the "difference" between what the Glee Club was doing, and other organizations within the High School (it is a pretty unique thing); I've even been made fun of for being a part of it (I was also on the varsity basketball team). Also, I've acted and sung in musicals and love many Broadway shows.

But, I really, really dislike this show. Here's why: In order of importance.

1) Gender confusion. I don't expect a T.V. show to give a biblical model of masculinity or femininity, but "Glee" is trying very, very hard to confuse any sense of difference between men and women, and ridicules or demonizes those who feel differently.

Sue Sylvester, while a hilarious character, is a female who is the most masculine person on the show (a screwed up, abusive masculinity to be sure). The gay characters are flamboyantly so, and act like everyone needs to see it as "normal". (I'm not making a statement on homosexuality there. . . but on acting like a man or woman). The girls are active, the guys are passive. . . . the girls are sexually aggressive, the guys are waiting, sitting in the corner. . . yeeesh.

They should be given alot of credit for bringing the gay-bullying issue before a mass audience, (heavy handed a bit, though it was). . Listen, I don't think gay people should be bullied, harassed, or otherwise discriminated against in the public school system. I also don't think every girl needs to be a cheerleader, and every guy a football player. But, this show is showing (mostly) kids that all social norms are wrong, . . that there are no judgments to be made about any kind of behavior, and that basically, Anything Goes. (hey someone should write a musical with that title).

2) The (auto-tuned) music: I got goose bumps as well when Lea Michelle uncorked "Don't Stop Believin' " last year, and some of the other songs taken on by the cast have been great. But, the auto-tune is so thick, that I'm not sure I know what most members of the cast sound like. Lea Michelle could sing the phone book. . .she's great. She should sing more, they should auto-tune her less. The other characters are so processed and matched up that it often sounds like two robots singing a love song to each other. They attempt to make "epic" moments on screen, such as Sue Sylvester and Carol Burnett singing a duet last week. (this is event television, folks). But, it is so processed, it sounds bad, and it's, for lack of a better term, fake. Auto-tune is used by everyone, and it's fine. . . .in small doses. The producers of this show are trying to make flawless, perfect music. . .which is by definition, fake.

(Gwyneth Paltrow was one of the worst I heard . . did we hear Gwen? or just the computer?)

3) The chutzpah, pompous-ness, ego, etc. . .

If you disagree with anything Glee does, or, as a musician, don't let them use your music or refuse to appear on the show. . . . apparently, you are a close-minded, talent-less hack who needs to get on board with the auto-tuned gravy train.

This is a pretty revealing article about the higher ups at "Glee" and how they roll.

They really think they are doing revolutionary, "never before seen" stuff. You know, kind of like real, live music.

If the cast of Glee ever does a "live" show, or performs "live" on Letterman or something (awards shows don't really count. . there's alot of lip-synching going on there) I will watch. Again, I'm a big Lea Michelle fan.

But, until then, I think I'll stay away from the show. I'm firmly with "Slash" on this one. (that's probably the last time you'll ever read that sentence on this blog.)

Incidently, a reality-show/behind the scenes/real story of a big, High School glee club would be very interesting. All of you jocks can find out what it was really like for us oppressed artists!!!!! (puke). But, that might be a better option than "Glee". I'm sure many of you disagree with me, and that's fine. I'm just letting you know, as a former Glee Club member. . that I don't like the show. And, I wasn't even the "obligatory wheel-chair guy".

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Social Network


I've always wanted to put that at the top of a post. But, in this case, it's a bit disingenuous because the movie is all a matter of public record and some of the lawsuits depicted in the movie are on-going, or have been re-opened. That being said, if you don't want to think about this movie before you see it (I often go in reverse order) then you might want to skip this post for now.


I've wanted to see "The Social Network" since it came out, but thought it might be a better 4 dollar movie, than 10 dollar movie, if you catch my drift. (which, after you count babysitters and dinner, becomes a $100 movie. . but that's another blog)

I was right, . . no reason to see this in the cinema except that Jody might've wanted me to shut up a few times. So, she might view that issue differently. :)

The movie is the story of facebook owner/founder Mark Zuckerberg. It was written for the screenplay from the book "The Accidental Billionaries". There has been some dispute over the way the movie presented certain events. But, the director has admitted he took huge liberties, and Mark Zuckerberg has said most of the movie is "fiction".

I'm not here to debate that. Liberties were taken. . Mark Z. is neither a god nor pure evil. What happened on the way to a midly interesting pseudo-documentary was that they made the best movie of the year. (yes, I saw Inception, and yes, it's really good. . . . . in the #2 hole)

Here are a few reasons why it's so good and why you must see it before the Oscars air:

1) The larger story here is about how we communicate with each other, how facebook has changed that, and what a true "friend" is. The movie nails this without being heavy-handed
And it shows, (true or false) how even Zuckerberg could become an addict of his own creation and at any rate. . .was somewhat enslaved to the "approval" facebook brings. Ironic?

2) The writing. This movie probably will not win Picture of the Year (although it did clean up at the Golden Globes last night) because there isn't alot of cinematic beauty or costuming etc. . . . . But, if Aaron Sorkin doesn't win the Oscar for original screenplay, . . they need to call off the awards this year. That would be a travesty.

Some get sick of his rapid-fire dialogue (from his various T.V. shows), but it was a perfect vehicle for Zuckerberg's ego-maniacal nerdery. The way he interjected themes from facebook into the dialogue was pure genius. My favorite was when Zuckerberg's partner, Eduardo Saverin, yells at Mark after being screwed out of millions of dollars "I was your only friend. . .your one friend!!". Ah, the irony. . . . That was a killer scene.

Less obvious was Sorkin's repeated references to farm animals (Zuckerberg's original site was comparing Harvard co-ed's to farm animals) and how that foreshadowed the ever-present "Farmville" on facebook. clever.

How about the opening scene (reportedly took 99 takes) where Zuckerberg gets dumped by his girlfriend for basically not paying attention to her. (something he struggles with throughout the movie. . hmm. . . .ironic?). That was some of the best dialogue I've ever heard in a movie.

Some of the stars of the movie said Sorkin and director, David Fincher had to get them to stop taking breaths and pauses in between sentences ( an actor's go to device) for effect. It worked.

3) The soundtrack

Hello Trent Reznor! I know he's been around a little bit lately. . but this is a beautiful re-appearance for him, just a haunting, pad thick, noisy, dirty soundtrack from the father of all current smash/techno music. It was almost like Reznor was saying "see, this is what happened after the 90's. . . remember what my music told you!"

I could talk about this movie for hours. . . but basically the founder of our society's biggest vehicle for connection and online "friendship" does not connect with others well, and is a bad friend. Wow.

This is drilled home at the end as Zuckerberg tries to make facebook "friends" with his ex-girlfriend and waits, and waits. . . while re-freshing his browser . . for her to respond to his friend request. fade to black. . .

Beautiful, haunting, sad. I loved this movie.

Perhaps facebook won't last forever? No, check that, it definitely won't. Great article.

Great article about Aaron Sorkin on the movie and perhaps that he had an ax to grind with the new media. If that's true. . I don't care. He should win best screenplay. His "ax" was right on the money, and he pulled it off masterfully.

Lynx on Parenting

There's been some absolutely fabulous posts this past week on parenting. Jody and I have talked alot about it recently, and others seem to be working through various issues on the topic.

Here's some great stuff:

--This post from Paul Tripp is part of his upcoming book on parenting. First off, you should RSS, or subscribe to him on twitter. Secondly, check out this article. (and his epic mustache) Read the whole thing.

The part that resonates with me the most talks about "taking things personal" that weren't meant that way. From our kids, yes. . but also from other adults. We get this one really wrong in our hyper-offended culture. The kids aren't out to get you. . .they're sinners. Personal offense will only make it worse and probably cause you to sin back at them.

--Typical yoda-level wisdom from Doug Wilson. Wow, . . he's smart. I've thought this very thing, "lowering the standard" for a long time, but I can't ever put it in such a way that doesn't make me sound like a slacker-dad. Enter Doug Wilson. Let's find a level of agreement (on things not specifically pointed out in scripture) that we can work with and strive to excel there. Stop comparing yourself to the dude with 18 kids on TLC. . that's not you, and it's not your family. . .lower the standard.

--This post isn't really about parenting. But, I think this is one of the best blogs my exceedingly hot wife has ever written. This is definitely something to pass on to your daughters. Let me say, from my trip to the mall this weekend, there's nothing quite as ugly as trying a bit too hard on the physical appearance.

Currently I"m cooking up a very long post on "The Social Network" and facebook in general. That movie blew my mind this past weekend. I know, I know, you're all looking forward to it. . .you 5 readers, you. Enjoy some parental wisdom until then.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Perspective on Balloon Boy

I had never thought of it this way. . . .but the Colorado/Denver governmental response to balloon boy has to be one of the most damaging arguments to the "pro-choice" position on abortion.

It's rather compelling as well, because it doesn't guilt anyone, and doesn't use shock value (both of which are appropriate at times) to get the point across.

Thanks to Justin Taylor for this interesting perspective!

We will, if need be, shut down the airport and mobilize the government to save a child.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Epic Fail

Andy Peterson has really been a blessing to me and my family this year. His music has been great and has communicated some great truths to us. . and his writings have been meaningful as well.

I have just realized something awful about fatherhood. It’s something I’ve read about, but have always thought was one of those things that didn’t apply to me. But I was wrong. It’s something I hoped to avoid, something that will cause much pain, for my children and for myself.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


No, not the spotted forest creature. . . . . But here some things that I've been reading this week.

--Alot of folks are scared about facebook and twitter, etc. .People think it's doing bad things to our brains (I might agree with that), people are scared about the way it changes how we read, etc. .

Doug Wilson has an amazing post about the history of such fears. This is really worth 5 minutes to read the whole thing. Wilson, though I don't agree with him on everything, is a brilliant man.

Really great piece.

--Here's a happy/sad piece about one woman's 25th wedding anniversary. It seems such anniversaries are rare these days. What's her secret? Read on.

-- If you have questions/concerns about Calvinism and the old predestination/free will debate. . RC Sproul has a helpful Q and A here:

Ask R.C. Live (Nov. 30, 2010) from Ligonier on Vimeo.

--I found this site a few weeks ago. It's really funny. . . if you're a nerd like me. I think this is clever as a blog concept, and as a humor concept in general. I want Conan to have "indexes" on Tuesday nights (ala "headlines"). I don't understand today's post :) But, scroll down. . funny stuff.

--I've been watching the Passion conference all week. They always do a great job. If you've never been "in" to John Piper, or have trouble understanding his "God making much of Himself" central message, check out his talk from Passion this year. This philosophy changed alot of my thinking years ago.

Sorry, not alot of short clicks. . . .but that kind of thing ruins your brain anyway :) enjoy the lynx!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010: A Year of Moments

Happy 2011 everyone!

I looked at last December's post, and yes. . . . .2010 was much better than 2009. In fact, I think that 2010 was the best year I've had in a while. I thank God for that. The lines fell in pleasant places much of this year. But, the best things about this year were some of the great moments. Many of these will seem silly, but it's time for a more confessional blog post, warts and all. . .Here we go:

-- My scale has not seen the south end of 200 pounds in about 13 years. . . . 194, That was a good moment.

--On my sabbatical this summer, I made a few mix cd's (I blogged about these cd's. . look in August). One early June afternoon, we were driving back to Gretna, NE, my hometown, from the lake and "The End of the Innocence" came on. Yes, the windows went down and the volume went up. Great moment.

--As a kid, in Gretna, I used to spend alot of time staring out across the plains in the summer. . . you can see forever. . . I had some great Summer Nights (don't even think about humming that song) just enjoying the cool breeze, green corn, and the smell of freshly cut grass.

--Also in August, I got to go see Passion City Church in Atlanta. It was kind of an amazing moment being with the folks that taught me how to lead worship and worshipping with them after all of these years.

--No one knew what was going to happen with Nebraska Football this year. Although the season ended in a big dissappointment, we were all sitting in our couches on September 5th when Taylor Martinez happened. whoosh. This play had everyone at my viewing party out of their seats. We'd never even seen this kid play before. Great moment.

--I've never seen anything like this before: (even though he traveled) killer moment

-- Jody got excited about the Fall Young Life banquet and sent out a facebook request for dresses. She received about 9 dresses from friends and the one she picked was. . . . epic. My wife is exceedingly hot, . . great moment. She of course didn't let anyone take any real photos (cell phone does not count). But, trust me.

--We saw a storm come and go from the car, in southern Utah on our way to the Grand Canyon. You can see forever out there too. . . Wow.

-- At our Christmas Eve services at Calvary, I just started to feel really grateful for the church where God has placed me. We turn the lights off, light candles, and sing O Holy Night ever year, . . and it's a great moment. God really opened my eyes this year to the beauty of His Church.

--Malachi told me he didn't need me anymore and he would go back to Ethiopia and drive his own car. Although kind of a mean thing to say. . I thought this was hilarious and one example out of 5,000 of the amazing things he says. I had great moments talking to my kids this year.

--Ok, I could go on for pages about my kids. . .but some highlights. . . they got me a shoebox full of coal for Christmas, because I joked about it earlier in the month. . . Eden made me about 5 really great cards/notes this year. She just loves making me things. . . . Provi's stories for school about Malachi and about our sabbatical were great. That girl is a great writer . . .

--The first night of football practice, Sam took the ball around left end for a 20 yard touchdown. Great moment for me, I think he might have actually known what happened :) .

--This was a great moment: Just got chills again when I youtubed it!

--When Dena Groves led "He is Lord" and "Before the Throne of God Above" at church for the first time this year. . . those were great moments.

--When Brian, D, and the band and I led "All Because of Jesus" in October. . . . great moment.

--When Justin Hudnall uncorked the lead line on "Joy to the World" a few weeks ago. wow. He also killed "Awakening" when we introduced that song a few months ago.

--Jody smiled at me . . . . many times.

I could go on and on. . . Leave some comments about your favorite moments from last year. Let's make many more in 2011!