Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Lord Giveth and The Lord Taketh Away

When I moved to Goshen, Indiana in late 1999, the community was growing like it was going out of style. The population boom, made up mainly by Hispanics migrating to a town with so many jobs locals couldn't fill them all, was fueled by growth in the RV and manufactured housing industry. I remember when my former boss, the late Dick Lyndon, was trying to sell me on moving to the community, part of the sell was that local economy was so diversified that historically recessions didn't hit it as hard as other communities. There is no one big employer in Elkhart county, just a bunch of small factories that make just about everything you can imagine. Those factories were turning out products as fast as they could make them, and the local community prospered.

I thought after 9/11, when gas first took off above $2 a gallon that it would spell doom for the local economy. RV's get, what... 6 or 7 miles to the gallon, at best. But the fear of flying, coupled with the steady trickle of Baby Boomers looking for a pleasant diversion, and even a new home, kept RV sales sky high. Not even natural disasters could touch the local economy. Hurricanes in the south spurred production of mobile homes and manufactured housing. Remember those trailers that rotted, unused after Katrina? They were made in Elkhart County. It appeared that truly Goshen's economy was recession-proof.

Fast forward to 2009. The credit bubble bursting, after a season of high commodity prices, did what Hurricanes and 9/11 couldn't. Elkhart County is now in real trouble.

It was announced yesterday that Elkhart County has the highest unemployment rate in Indiana, and one of the highest in the nation. 15.3% in the county, and over 17% in the city of Elkhart. On Facebook last night, a friend, Jerry, revealed that his last day of work at his current job ends tomorrow. Now, he writes, he faces the prospect of standing in long-lines at the unemployment office.

Another friend, Merv, faced with fewer RV's and box trucks to deliver, is one of two guys who now shuttle what meager production local plants are turning out, to a staging yard for the company that will deliver them to customers or dealers, and is happy to have the work. Merv used to be able to deliver two units in one day, mostly to the Chicago suburbs. Now, with many people who deliver units sitting at home with nothing to deliver, Merv considers himself fortunate, even as his income has dropped.

The crowning blow though, and the thing that really raised my alarm today, though, was this article in the Goshen News. Much like Jesse Lowe last winter, who got so fed up that he made a sign (Drugs Bring Death) and stood out on a street corner where drug dealers across the street threatened his life, Mike Grant made his own sign and posted it outside of his house. Five months of unemployment just pushed him past his breaking point, causing him to etch, "Will Work 4 Job" and prop it up in his front yard. What hit home was that his front yard was in my old neighborhood. The recession has reached Yorktown Drive, and with a vengence.

As jobs disappear at a pace that's making heads spin, the downward spiral of the economy seems to be picking up steam. The bottoming out everyone hoped would come in the days leading up to the inauguration still hasn't come. No one knows where the bottom is on this thing. And it seems that in certain corners of the country, like my old stomping grounds in the Hoosier state, state action curtailing foreclosures is the only thing from creating new Hoovervilles... renamed, I suspect, Bushvilles from turning up in city parks or empty lots. Not-so-slowly, we are sliding into a deep recession, that without the social safety net put in place by the New Deal, would probably look a whole lot more like the depression my fraternal grandmother described in great detail when I was child. Older people, who now enjoy Social Security and Medicare, may not be living like royalty, but aren't being forced out into the streets like they were in droves in 1929 and 1930. Unemployment is at least, for now, keeping people from starvation. Rush Limbaugh may not like socialism, but in times like these social program show their true merit by alleviating wide-spread suffering.

But folks taking unemployment are now your neighbors, who once took great pride in being able to make their mortgage payments on a nice home with a well manicured lawn, and in the process they're taking a spiritual beating. Prayers for a turnaround in the economy, or an upswing in hours at the local plant, or increased sales on the floor are seemingly being met with silence. In Goshen, one of my favorite places to eat, The Backyard Bar-b-Que, which was the brain child of a couple in our congregation, was finally forced to close its doors last month. This couple are two of the of praying-iest people you'll ever meet but their business was not spared. I mean it's hard to keep a restaurant open when there's 15% unemployment. Now the site of their dream is nothing but a vacant storefront in Linway Plaza, awaiting a new tenant. Their story, and others like it, are becoming more common, and in a place like Goshen, can be found on just about every block.

And so, I ask the question I'm sure is being asked a lot of places right now: "Lord, where are you?"

Part of me thinks that during the boom times, the Lord was screaming as loudly as he possible could. Begging people to be prudent with their money. Coaxing those on Wall Street to think of the bigger picture. Speaking to politicians who avoided taking on big issues because it was easier to stick with the status quo. And dare I say it, wondering why pastors, including this one, were more focused on building bigger buildings with coffee bars than warning people that love of money is the root of all evil.

Not money, mind you, but the love of it.

Now, though, I suspect the Good Lord, just as he called us to prudence, integrity, and mercy for those in need as the stock market boomed, are calling us to humility, hope, and mutual concern in these difficult days. To remind us that blessings in this life are neither eternal, nor a birthright for any of us. They are gifts, to be treasured, but not to be trusted as measures of self-worth. There are no short cuts or guarantees, and as such we need to build our lives on that which really matters. God doesn't love and reward us according to the size of our paycheck. The Lord's love isn't contingent on what we do or don't do... it just "is", in abundance. The Lord's reward is in the depth of our connection to him, and between us and our neighbor. We're just so focused on the moment, that we often forget these things, and it usually takes a sickness, tragedy, or even our own mortality to shake us out of our malaise.

The depth of our honesty and integrity. A concern for our neighbor. Elevating our focus above crass consumeristic goals to a quality of life which is defined by intangibles: love, grace, mercy, justice, and peace. A satisfaction in doing what God has called us to - love justice, show mercy, and be righteous - in alignment with the teachings of the One who as he washed the feet of his disciples commanded us to serve others as He was serving them. It's these things that really matter, in good times, and bad.

In any event, pray for people who live in a town that showed us great love and acceptance, and for all those suffering right now. And where you can, make a difference.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Athiests, Buses, and the Lack of British Concern

If you hadn't heard, the same group that ran ads on buses in Washington D.C. that asked the question "Is There A God?" has now put a much more straight-forward message on 800 London buses. The Atheists Bus Campaign is the brain child of British comic who was offended by a Christian web site advertised on a London bus and decided to offer a different message. She started hoping to receive $8k to advertise on a few buses in London, but was surprised to receive over $200k in support once the British Humanist Association took up her cause. As the campaign spreads and future ad buys are pondered, however, what is creating a bit of concern for Christian folks isn't the message itself or those who paid for it, but rather the amount of indifference the campaign is generating among Londoners.... which is considerable.

The reason given for this indifference by Christian leaders overseas is the degree to which how secular London (and for that matter all of Europe) has become. As church attendance among the masses has dwindled to the point that its estimated that only about 7% of Europeans actually attend a church, to be told that there is no God is not necessarily all that culturally offensive. Without a huge following, the church's impact in Europe has become so marginalized that now politicians downplay their religious heritage and beliefs.

We as Americans have a hard time digesting this (not so) new reality across the pond. If you ran these ads on city buses in, say, Atlanta or Houston or Salt Lake City, people would boycott the bus, there'd be hearings on how the ads got printed in the first place, law suits, millions raised for new bus ads for Jesus.... you name it. It would be a total circus.

And yet, what is really interesting to me about all of this is that in Great Britain, and in every other country in Western Europe, there is NO separation between church and state.

None. Zero. Nada.

While I was at Asbury taking some classes toward me currently-stalled doctorate, we spent a week with Steve Chalke, one of the most well-known pastors on the other side of the Atlantic. Over the course of the past decade, the British government has actually pumped tens of millions of dollars into Chalke's ministry, Oasis International, which then uses the money to build schools, medical clinics, and job training centers all over the country. Because the Queen is not only the head of the British state, but also the Church of England, allocating money to religious enterprises creates not a stir in Parliament. Because Chalke's organization is able to provide these services much more efficiently than the British welfare system - which Chalke told us is overwhelmed and failing - Chalke actually receives phone calls from politicians wondering if he take on projects the government can't get to themselves.

(And everyone thought Bush's faith-based initiative funding was so radical)

But here's my point. The naysayers here in the States who claim that by taking religion - and specifically Christianity - out of forums like courtrooms, schools, and places where politicians do their business - we are driving our country in the ground are missing the example of state institutionalized Christianity only one transatlantic flight from Washington DC. Government in Europe embraces Christianity, and has even set it up on a pedestal above all other faith-movements and still, the Christian movement there is slowly dying. Atheists can put whatever they want on buses and nobody cares. Nobody, except the British Methodist Church which is thanking those who started the campaign because it's created discourse over spiritual matters in the public forum. In other words, the Methodists in London are thankful for the buses because otherwise people are thinking or talking about God or religion.

Wrap your brain around that one.

My fear is that American Christians, particularly of the evangelical persuasion, are missing the point when they demonize what they believe to be the secularization of all things government and media. The deeper problem is that Christianity, as it is presented and in terms of how it resonates with people, is losing its impact in western culture. And even if you legislated our faith as being the "Official Faith of the United States of America", according it special protection and even financing, if the transmission of the message of the Gospel and how it's practiced by its followers isn't relevant to people of this time and place, it will continue to fade.

I mean, theoretically, given the protection of our right to speak freely, an atheist should be able to put ads like the one in London on any bus or billboard that they like anywhere in the United States. Only, unlike in London, instead of saying that there is "probably" no God, they could just say here that there is no God. If you read the NY Times article you'll realize that wasn't possible in London because the state's embrace of the Christian religion gave cause to the London metro commission to order the ABC to add the "probably". They couldn't say there was no God because the state recognizes that there is. So you can say there is no God in America, and you can't in Britain.

And so I'll ask again, what does it matter if your faith is protected when nobody practices it?

While the US is a long way away (a lot longer, I think, than the postmodernists like Eddy Gibbs, Brian McLaren, and Leonard Sweet, and post-institutional churchists like George Barna would have us believe) from the kind of secular world that is Western Europe, we must not get wrapped up in the rabbit trail that is worrying about federal, state, or local government infringement on the privileged position we as Christians have enjoyed in this nation since its founding. Considering the American Christian church at best has been slowly declining in attendance, involvement, and influence over the last fifty years, the more important endeavor is to ask how we can help once again breathe life into Christ's message of redemption and reconciliation in the hearts of minds of people in our community so they care about the local church, and the Christian faith, at large.

As I look to preach on this issue specifically, as it relates to the church I serve, my sense is that our emphasis on ritual and gathering must be modified to include individual engagement, and ministry that restores souls, lives, families, neighborhoods, and communities. Ministry that will take effort, creativity, and energy from each one of us on an ongoing, sustained basis. Ministry that will force us to take a long, hard look at the nature of what we have called "evangelism". For years evangelism has been centered on public gatherings where people are told that if they don't choose Jesus they'll go to Hell. Chances are it doesn't matter to somebody that they'll go to Hell if they don't believe it exists.

But is that all we've got? The threat of Hell?

Strangely enough, Chalke's ministry is one of the few that are growing on European soil. People are joining new Oasis communities at rates unheard of for quite some time. Of course, the ministry is feeding the hungry, educating children, and treating the sick. It is now waging a huge campaign to end human trafficking and is training teens to help deal with and confront gang activity in their own communities. That's a far cry from arguing whether or not we should be using hymns or praise choruses, or fighting to put up a nativity scene in a local park. It sidesteps the issue of whether or not mainstream media is biased, and instead engages people at their level of need. Whether they are curious about God, angry at injustice, scared of violence in their neighborhood, or just want to make the world a better place, Oasis is equipped to engage wherever people are at.

And Oasis, I might add, is a movement of people.

Just a little something to think about as you go about your busy day.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Why Tonight's Loss Restored My Hope In OSU Football

It's gonna sound strange, especially after tonight's heartbreaking loss to Texas, but strangely enough my faith in OSU football was restored tonight.

For those who don't know our family eat, drinks, and breathes OSU football. Dad is a grad of THE Ohio State University, and while a student there, I was born at THE Ohio State University Hospital. That's right friends... my first breath of air was taken on sacred Buckeye soil. So my earliest memories consist of watching Archie Griffin run past the Wolverines, Woody Hayes screaming obscenities on the sidelines, and lots of hours sitting my family - father, grandfather, Unc, and later, Brother Esq - watching the Bucks. For seven magical years in the nineties, Mom worked on her undergrad and masters, meaning we got season tickets in the student section, further cementing with each trip to the football shrine that is the Horseshoe, our devotion to our team. It was one of the reasons, after living six years in Illinois and Indiana, I desperately wanted to come back to Ohio. There's nothing like watching a game with the fam on a Saturday afternoon. Every weekend stuck watching the God-forsaken Fighting Irish in Northern Indiana was a reminder that time was too short.

I am a Buckeye, and proud of it.

But the last three years have been a trial for not only Buckeye fans, but Big Ten fans throughout the great Midwest. The last three big non-conference games OSU faced - Florida, LSU, and USC - were all total blowouts. Since the Bucks have been the cream of the conference during that period, each terrible defeat was a reminder of how "slow", "fat", and "mediocre" our team, and our game in this part of the country, had become. And when fans across the country started saying "anybody but OSU in the National Championship" cause they knew the Bucks wouldn't show up, I, and my Buckeye brethren began to dread the national stage.

A stage, I might add for my Auburn friends, their team hasn't stood on since Bo Jackson played there many, many years ago (excluding this fall when Charles Barkley, an alum, called the school the most racist in the country.... they were on the national stage that day).

So when it was announced that the Buckeyes had been selected to go to the Fiesta Bowl to play another national power a few weeks ago, you can imagine the feeling in the collective stomach of Buckeye Nation. Stories were rampant out of Columbus that the university couldn't sell their allotment of tickets. The Lima News ran stories on a travel agent who, only last year, booked sixteen full busloads of Buckeye fans for the B(C)S Championship Game, and this year couldn't book one. And while the economy has tanked, and Ohio is at the bottom of that bowl with Michigan, I can guarantee you that if the team looked unbeatable, those buses would have been full, recession be damned.

Two losses, a squeaker to Penn State, and an embarrassment at USC (which I witnessed live and in person) convinced us that more than likely, we were probably up for another shellacking. That's why people who could have gone, stayed home. And Vegas agreed, making the Bucks anywhere from an 8 to 11 point underdog.

Even the biggest Buckeye fan I know, the Eric the Buckeye (I named him "the Buckeye" for pete's sake) called me today to tell me he had a bad feeling about tonight's game.

"You don't think they'll hang half a hundred on us, do you dude? I don't think I could take another blowout."

To be perfectly honest, I didn't know how to answer him. With the sounds of USC's student section singing "Na, Na, Na, Na - Hey, Hey, Hey - Good-bye" at the end of third quarter back in September, I, like most everyone in this part of the world (cept Dad, who, when it comes to Buckeye football, is Don Quixote in a beard and flannel shirt) weren't excited about tonight. Not at all.

But now, everything has changed. Here's five reasons why:

1) Terrell Pryor: Let's face it, the kid is special and next year he's coming back with a year's experience under his belt. As long as he's standing the Bucks will have a chance.

2) Jim Tressel was Jim Tressel again: Gone was the stoic, stonefaced coach whose sphincter seemed to tighten to unbearable proportions, and back was the guy showing emotion on the sidelines, breathing life and hope into the youngsters on his team. The Buckeyes looked prepared. They made adjustments. They showed up, and that's how Jim Tressel got us to believe in him in the first place.

3) Colt McCoy took a beating tonight: You can bet that every team in the country will remember how badly McCoy got pounded repeatedly all evening, and how they largely neutralized him to bring Texas' Texas sized offense back to earth. If you thought the Bucks D was too slow, you didn't think that by the end of tonight. When they started going man-to-man and busting those receivers on the line at the end of the third, you saw the future of what they'll be doing next year. They are catching up with the rest of the country in terms of defensive speed, and they're only getting faster.

4) We Don't Have To Dread Big Games Anymore: In the third quarter, after Texas scored two unanswered TD's, it looked like the same tired movie: OSU fails to show up for a big game. I even texted Skyscraper Kent to tell him that I was giving up college football for English Premier League Soccer next year. And then... they just put the hammer down on the Texas QB and receivers. And what's more, the O started moving the ball, even taking the lead down the stretch. They might have lost the game, but they didn't roll over. Take notice SEC, Big 12, and Pac 10 fans... a game against OSU is no longer a gimme. Just ask Mack Brown. He hopes he never sees them again.

5) We Got Our Swagger Back: Listen, I know there are no moral victories in college football. A loss by one is the same as a loss by 91. But after tonight, nobody in this state will dread a chance to play on the big stage. I'm sure USC tickets for next fall just got harder to get, and the team leads the whole state in wanting to shut up the naysayers in the south and west. Tonight was the first time they've looked hungry since the Michigan game two years ago. The monkey is off the back, but there's still something to prove and I've a sense that will drive this team all winter long.

I can't wait for next season to begin.

O - H!

I - O!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Mea Culpa - Brother Esq convicts me of being a bad Uncle

Just to keep the record straight, the birth of my nephew, Sammy Dean, is one of my most memorable experiences of the year. I was actually thinking about where to put this momentous event when I got a little sidetracked (Eli, my 3 year old, coming down to find me because he was convinced that Max has taken his favorite penguin... those dreams can seem pretty real) at 3am when I finally finished this post up.

However, the Judge has ruled me "guilty" of being a bad uncle, and now I owe Sam big time.

Well Sam, here's the deal. My house is going to be one of your favorite places on the planet earth. We'll have every toy, a steady stream of cousins to play with, and ice cream in the fridge. If that isn't enough to spoil you, we'll also be taking you to more than your fair share of movies and I'm sure more than a couple of trips to Cedar Point. Thus, my sentence is to love you with all my heart, and help assist your parents raise you right by being the best uncle I can be.

May I throw myself on the mercy of the court and spoil you all your days.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Ten Memorable Moments From 2008 (good, bad, and indifferent)

As I sit here wondering how in the world Cincinnati got into a BCS Bowl when they can't even sellout Nippert Stadium, here are the most memorable moments I had last year.

1) The birth of our fourth son, Tobias Gabriel. Can't say we really planned on ever having four kids, but we thank God for them all. Toby is the smiley happy baby Aimee has always wanted, and given our age we are both thankful for his good disposition. In the last couple of days he's taken his first steps, so time really does fly.

2) The, um, little procedure I had done to make sure we stick with four kids. Thank heavens for frozen peas.

3) Talking on the phone with one of Barak Obama's campaign managers. As I blogged earlier this year, we were in the running to be the church the Obama family worshiped at on Labor Day weekend. They ended up at St. Luke Lutheran, but the experience threw us all for a loop and turned what was normally a quiet weekend into chaos. You should have heard the sermon I wrote for the occasion. I mean how many times would you ever get the chance to preach to a future President of the United States. It would have been a good one.

(Although, I am convinced Jenny Neidich will be a future President, and I preach to her almost weekly, so maybe I've already had my moment in the sun. Just remember Neidich, no calling Rick Warren when you need a pastor to do an invocation at your inaugeration... and no calling Bishman either. Think of the glare of the sun off his head... it would blind your future cabinet.)

4) Anything political I was involved with this year was both a new experience and a ton of fun. I did a lot of grunt work for Glenn Derryberry's campaign for judge, doing everything from walking in parades, to slapping backs and pressing flesh at the Allen Country, and even knocking on doors handing out literature. I was very rewarding when he won (in a landslide).

I also was one of eight co-sponsors of a quasi-debate between the candidates for Allen County Sheriff. I say "quasi" because one of the candidates (the eventual loser) refused to directly debate the other candidate for reasons that ultimately weren't considered all that valid by the voters. Don't be surprised to see my name connected with another debate later in the year when the "no-holds-barred-steel-cage-grudge-match" that will be Lima's Mayoral election takes place later this year.

5) I'm proud of all the new friendships I made this year with pastors throughout the area. It was good to listen to Frank Taylor and Fayne Wise talk about their congregations, past and present. It was good to spend time with Lars Olsen, Dave Harris, and John Heyward. I treasure the friendship that Daniel Hughes and I have built over the last ten months. It's been an honor to work with Steve Blum and LaMont Monford. This city has a lot of great pastors, and its been good to get to know them.

6) Maybe the thing I'm most proud of in the past year was being a point person to help The Future Church move into old Grace UMC building. I can't say the experience itself was all that great. It was a bit like trying to eat a tough 96 ounce steak without teeth. But it was all worth it to sit in the congregation on the evening of the consecration service and see TFC's praise team rap a pseudo-rendition of "Amazing Grace". They're a young congregation with big dreams. It was good to help move those dreams a little closer to reality.

What's more, while I'm disappointed that the District Trustees didn't opt to just give the church the building, I am convinced that we, as United Methodists, have a chance now to impact the south end of Lima in ways we have not been able, or willing, to engage. While the West Ohio Conference has focused ample efforts in terms of urban ministry in our bigger cities, Lima has always been overlooked and neglected in terms of deploying the necessary resources or leadership to reach folks in the inner city. As our influence in Lima has slowly diminished, we have the chance in partnership together as Lima-area UM churches, and ecumenically with other partner congregations, start engaging the local population in ways that were necessary 30 or 40 years ago. We have a great new chance to do something good for this community. Let's not blow it.

7) I was given the gift of getting to travel around the country interviewing people for my on-going dissertation research. I got to meet UM-preaching legend Zan Holmes, Gene Getz (founder of the Fellowship Bible Church movement), and a lady whose son-in-law is Alan Bristow, a former head coach of the Charlotte Hornets. But the height of my experience was an unexpected 90 minute interview with Bishop Timothy Whitaker of the Florida Annual Conference.

In what was by far a much more frank and honest interview than I could have ever expected, I heard a UM bishop describe a future for our denomination that I could believe in. A future that is much less bueracratic and more local church oriented. A future where pastoral training takes place more in a local church setting and less in an ivory tower seminary. The question, of course, is whether or not as a denomination we will choose this future pro-actively, or because finances force us to go in a different direction. Hopefully Bishop Whitaker will write a book, engage the other bishops in much needed dialog, and help move us forward as a Christian movement.

8) Any moment with friends in 2008 was a good one. Whether it was time with Kent Reynolds and Chris Heckaman on a pastoral retreat in August, lunch with Roger Rhodes, or blessing bikes with Larry Inskeep, the year was filled with great moments and great memories. Nothing though, quite topped a long weekend spent with Eric the Buckeye, Dr. Mango, and The First Husband in Southern California, where we saw the Buckeyes get pounded by USC. Outside of the game, it was a great time where a pastor hung out with three doctors, shopping for pens (doctors, for those who didn't know, spend a lot of time shopping for expensive pens, and know quite a bit about them, which, by the way, seems at odds with the fact that you can't read a word they write), eating good food, and playing a lot of euchre. A good time was had by all.

9) We did a lot of cool things as a family this past year, but as in the previous summer, our highlight was a week-long vacation at Eric the Buckeye and Vanessa the Raider's lakehouse. Lots of swimming, boating, jet-skiing, eating, and movie watching commenced. Even a $100 ticket from the local county sheriff for pulling my kids around on an intertube with out a spotter on the back of the jet ski (should have read those Michigan water laws a little more closely). This led to my going to the Branch County Courthouse, and one of my favorite paragraphs I wrote this year on this blog:

My misadventure Sunday afternoon with a very nice deputy (who is a High School teacher the other nine months of the year he isn't educating dumb tourists via tickets about Michigan's boating laws) though led me to an unexpected encounter the next day at the Branch County Courthouse. While I waited at the window for the clerk to process my fine, I saw a woman with an honest-to-goodness coffee-can-lid-sized pentagram tattoo on the side of her neck. It was unbelievable. My father-in-law once told me that you should never get a tattoo in a place that can't be hidden from a judge. Let's just say that this lady needed one serious turtleneck to make that happen. I overheard enough her discussion with her lawyer(?) to realize that she was well acquainted with the folks at the Branch County Courthouse. On my way out, I told her how striking her tattoo was. Her response...

"It gives me (how can I make this up) all the power of the underworld, which is why I will prevail here today."

Ummmm... right. The look on her lawyer's face as she said this was a cross between "I wish I had gotten that I.T. degree" and "I think somebody ate my cat". And who knows, by the looks of things, maybe somebody had.

I called Brother Esq to tell him about it later. His response... "I'm a lawyer who does defense work. I see that stuff every day. You gotta get out of that church of yours a little more."

Not worth the entire cost of the fine.... but close.

10) Aimee and I celebrated our 18th Anniversary in August. And for all those who were worried, this Christmas I did a little better than spackling in her stocking. Let's just say my beloved is well-pleased.

For those new to the blog, here are ten posts from the archives I think you'll enjoy:

1) Top Ten names I wanted for Toby that Aimee would never allow.
2) My inability to simply pick up someone from the airport without scaring my grandmother to death.
3) The best advice I could muster for future Asbury Seminary Beeson Fellowship candidates.
4) Me walking in my wife's bible study in my underwear.
5) Some poetry I wrote after taking a late night walk with my sons.
6) This is the most viewed set of posts I've ever written. They are are about my experience at Holy Trinity - Brompton, one of the most influential churches in the world. The posts were discovered by an attendee at the church who linked it on his blog, which was then read by thousands of Londoners. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.
7) This is the first of a four part series I wrote while spending a week with post-modern Christian thinker Brian McLaren and noted British pastor Steve Chalke. This was probably the highlight (besides going to London) of my Beeson experience.
8) Here's a post where I give the Jonas Brothers a hard time for butchering a classic 80's song.
9) Here's a post detailing a conversation I had with friend and local pastor, Bubba Rummel, regarding Jeremiah Wright.
10) A very early post I wrote after watching two hours of MTV one late evening.

Happy New Year!