Friday, April 30, 2010

The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin Merkle

I recently finished The White Horse King by Benjamin Merkle. The book is a brief but fairly comprehensive account of the achievements of Alfred the Great. The two main themes that Merkle focuses on are the faith of Alfred and the military conquests and defeats of Alfred. The faith element is central, because as Merkle recounts the life of Alfred the Great it was his deep faith that he learned initially as a boy that shaped how he led in battle, how he governed, how he dealt with the Vikings who he fought against in battle, and how he sought to live out his own life.

The book was not very engaging to me. In fact it took me nearly 3 months to finish it! Now I will admit the my reading is cluttered, usually 3 books at a time so if a book doesn't grab me it takes me a while to work through it. I should learn to just put it down but I rarely do. The history and research seem to be impeccable, so I applaud Merkle for his diligence there, however his ability to really make me as interested as he is in Alfred was severely lacking. I love history but I just didn't connect with the book. Perhaps if one has a particular strong interest in early British history or in Norse history they might find this book enjoyable.

Wrightians and the Neo-Reformed: 'All One in Christ Jesus' | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

This was an article that I read after a recent post, about the theological rumblings within conservative, evangelical groups. I thought it made some interesting points. Let me reiterate to anyone who questions my own theology, I have a great appreciation for both John Piper and N. T. Wright, as well as R. C. Sproul and others for all of them have been influential in helping to shape my own understanding of scripture, God, and my wicked heart. However, I am increasingly burdened that the prayer of Jesus in John 17 for all his disciples to be one, seems to be moving backwards rather than forward in realizing that goal.

Wrightians and the Neo-Reformed: 'All One in Christ Jesus' | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Monday, April 26, 2010

Church These Days

So I got a pre-release copy of David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, book that is to set to release in a week or so and I have been challenged and convicted of how and why we in the west, particularly America "DO" church. The title of the book is Radical. Platt believes that we have bought into the "American Dream" mindset even with our faith and our churches and that we have lost sight of the true gospel...very challenging to someone who is in ministry full-time!

Then this morning after I got to the office I was looking through some mail that came on Friday and saw this quote from Stanley Hauerwas, a renowned theologian who I believe currently teaches at Duke University's Divinity School.
The church has lost its ability to be a disciplined community because we're now, religiously, in a buyer's market. Christianity has to bill itself as very good for your self-realization, and that's killing us because we're not very good for our self-realization. We're good for your salvation, which is not the same thing.
Quoted in Christian Ethics Today (Vol. 16, Num 2)

Sometimes we in the church have to pull back from what we immerse ourselves with, or sprinkle ourselves for any non-Baptists and ask the tough questions? Is what we are doing really making an impact for the Kingdom of God? Are we following God's desires or our desires? Are we seeking to make disciples or to make people feel good about themselves? Are we just a club that has a cross or a fish plastered somewhere or are we completely sold out to the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Garden

We made a quick trip to check on the garden today so that Claire could go with Mimi to a wedding. So in between the rain and thunder Charlotte and I tried to do some weeding in the garden. We got just a little bit done before we had to call it quits...have I mentioned before how much she loves to play in the dirt as long as her feet don't get dirty? We are there with our hoes trying to weed around the plants and all of a sudden I look and see that she has her croc of and is trying to brush off her foot, but she can't balance and then puts her foot right in the middle of a big pile of wet Georgia dirt! Her facial expression was hilarious!

The evening was topped off with spending time with Grandmother and Mimi before heading home! Those girls love their grandparents.

Being out in nature always reminds me of God's creation and his recreation. Jesus is the one through whom the creator made all things, and he is now the one through whom the same God has reconciled all things to himself. N. T. Wright

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Little Bit of Gray, A Little Bit of Wisdom

I am finally in my 30s which for some people means they start getting gray hair. Of course one's opinion on gray hair varies like the actually color itself donned by so many people. For me of course, gray hair on my head really isn't an issue since I don't really have much hair left, especially since I cut it once a week to keep it short. However, my beard is another story altogether. It has always had different hues (black, brown, red) but now I have this one little patch on my chin that is turning gray of course it is more noticeable when my beard is longer (yet another reason for the weekly haircut). I noticed it earlier this week and the old Grateful Dead song, Touch of Grey, popped into my mind.

There probably aren't many ministers who will admit to listening to the Dead, but I am certainly one of them. I have a strong affinity to jam bands perhaps because many of them are so influenced by blues and jazz, two genres of music that I relish in. My first taste came from some friends in high school through the Allman Brothers Band, and then branched out there. I still love the music of those legendary bands and some of the newer ones as well.

As a Youth Minister, I especially find myself connected to some of these song lyrics because it is the world in which I am immersed, walking with students through their triumphs and tragedies. I find myself often repeating, "man, teenagers are different these days!" That's not all bad, though. I do see a renewed passion for God and for people in many teenagers!

Ultimately chorus, reminds us that we will get by, we will survive! As believers we hold fast to this promise in the darkest night and the brightest day, trusting that God will never leave us nor forsake us!

"Touch of Grey"
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission

Must be getting early
Clocks are running late
Paint by number morning sky
Looks so phony

Dawn is breaking everywhere
Light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains
I don't care 'cause
It's all right

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

I see you've got your list out
Say your piece and get out
Yes I get the gist of it
but it's all right

Sorry that you feel that way
The only thing there is to say
Every silver lining's got a
Touch of grey

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

It's a lesson to me
The Ables and the Bakers and the C's
The ABC's we all must face
And try to keep a little grace

It's a lesson to me
The deltas and the east and the freeze
The ABC's we all think of
Try to give a little love.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
but it's all right.

Cows giving kerosene
Kid can't read at seventeen
The words he knows are all obscene
but it's all right

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

The shoe is on the hand it fits
There's really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit
cause it's all right.

Oh well a Touch Of Grey
Kind of suits you anyway.
That was all I had to say
It's all right.

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive
We will get by / We will get by
We will get by / We will survive

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd

Friday, April 16, 2010

Theological Happenings

Interesting news and debate among folks of the Reformed theological persuasion yesterday at I am not endorsing either side of the debate, but I will say that both of these men are well-respected scholars and men of faith. Not sure I totally agree with McKnight's closing remarks...partly because it seems that everyone you ask has a different definition of what it means to be an "evangelical" a la Rob Bell's recent definition of the topic.

The more intriguing thing to me is the swelling tide of what I consider Neo-Reformed people who I believe will eventually draw the circle so small that there may not be any hope for even the elect:)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jennifer Knapp Comes Out | Music | Christianity Today

Jennifer Knapp Comes Out | Music | Christianity Today

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Wind in a Net

Harrod and Funck, an acoustic duo that I discovered through two friends in college, Matt Kitchell and Jimbo Bass, quickly won a permanent place in my music rotation for their incredible skill at the craft of songwriting. They are able to tell stories, weave images of life, love, and at times faith into intriguing songs that make a person think.
The songwriting duo both graduated from Wheaton College just outside of Chicago before making an impact on the folk/americana scene in the late 1990s especially in the greater Boston area. Cyd and I like their music so much we used one of their songs for a slideshow we made for our wedding reception.

The past few weeks have been difficult in terms of how much the impact of Cyd's dad, Ted, being gone is really having on us. Charlotte still looks for him whenever we get to their house. A few weeks ago we put the garden in that he has always done, of course not quite like he would have done it, I'm sure. Those few days as I was working in the yard and garden, this song kept playing over and over again in my head. The garden in one sense is a sacred space for me, for is a reminder of our dependence on God to provide rain, sun, and food for us, which in turn points to our greater need for reconciliation to God. The ancient Celts have this understanding of "thin places" those places where heaven and earth seem to meet and the presence of God is perhaps more evident to humans. I don't think that the garden is where God's presence is more evident, perhaps it is just the tool that God uses to open our hearts to his work in our lives. To take something so earthly and then transform it into something sacred, something that points us to the greater reality of God's presence with us no matter what it is we are facing. That is after all, what Jesus did when he took the bread and the wine and infused it with new meaning that would forever change the way we look at those two things.

It's funny to me how God seems to have this passion for taking the ordinary things of life and transforming them! I guess that's one of the reason God has such an affinity for rescuing stubborn, stiff-necked, humanity from our sin and own devices.

The song below is always a reminder of the presence of God in my life and the world around me, even, perhaps mostly when I feel the furthest away from God. I think the song speaks for itself so I won't add any more since I've already written a chapter.

"Wind in A Net"

These days my heart can be black as a raven's wing.
But soon I'll run full circle, let the day begin.
Will you whisper in my ear?
Exchange my small coin fears
For the only rumor I hope is true.

My grandfather told me once, "Stand close to me."
The day he returned to the earth I feared the world would freeze.
Lowered in the cold, cold ground,
His gentle voice still the sweetest sound,
Please let the rumors be true.

Could have been asleep
But I swore that I saw you walking on a stone still sea.

The days, they will come, the days they'll go.
At times they'll make as much sense as a summer snow.
Catch the wind in a net,
Lest we forget
Impossible rumors could be true.

Could have been asleep but I swore that I saw you walking.
Could have been dreaming but I swore that I saw you walking on a stone still sea.

Now it's the fall, killing time in this holy place.
Suddenly everything is spilling with your grace.
Will you whisper in my ear?
Exchange my small coin fears
For the only rumor I hope is true.

Could have been dreaming...
Could have been asleep but I swore that I saw you walking.
Could have been dreaming but I swore that I saw you walking on a stone still sea.
By Jason Harrod and Brian Funck

Monday, April 12, 2010

14 Years...only Just the Beginning

Today is April 12! That may not mean a lot to most people but to me it's the day that my life changed forever. 14 years ago a godly, beautiful young woman finally relented to my pleas to date me. It is still hard for me to believe that she said yes! Since that day I have often told people that Cyd saying yes to me was just another sign of God's grace and mercy. She has always been my greatest supporter, my wisest counselor, my harshest critic (when I need a reality check, especially when I slip and think that I have really done something great through preaching and teaching) she reminds me that it is not me but the Holy Spirit working in and through me. Words can hardly express how much she means to me. Next month we celebrate 10 years of marriage...10 wonderful years of marriage! I wish I could say that every moment of the last 14 years has been sheer bliss, but that's just not reality. We have had difficult days and moments, yet through it all God has strengthened our relationship and reminded me of His goodness and grace revealed through Christ Jesus.

Bill Mallonee has a line that says, "Ten years gone and a few songs". That line has always owned me for a couple of reasons. Mallonee's songs have always given me hope and courage for my journey, often describing my own thoughts about faith and life, especially my life with Cyd and our two girls. At the same time, some of the things that Mallonee said and stood for in terms of his first marriage fell apart several years ago now, which was a reminder to me that no one, not even myself is immune to temptation and sin, yet by the grace of God my marriage and my family have been protected for ten years now. There are things in my family history that for lack of a nicer description are "demons" particularly my parents' divorce. In many ways it has shaped me to be the person I am for better or worse. Ten years was how long they made it before the wheels fell off and so ten years has always been important to me at least subconsciously. I saw all of that to say that lately God has given me a renewed passion for life together with Cyd! I guess you might say I have been able to conquer some demons in my own life. With that victory, I am more than ready to walk through the next 63 (the number of years my grandparents were married) years hand in hand with Cyd, believing and trusting for the best years ahead! That seems really hard to believe, because the last 14 have been incredible! To think that life can be better than it has with her seems almost too good to be true.

I know that my life is better because of Cyd! I know that I am a better Christ follower, husband, father, and friend because of Cyd. In fact, I can't imagine what life would be like without her. Darlin' thanks for the journey so far, can't wait to see what the next 14 years holds for us!

"I wanna grow old with YOU!"


Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Country Wedding

Kim, Morgan, Sean, Allen

Claire is ready for the wedding!

This weekend we got to celebrate with one of my cousins as she and her now husband, Sean got married. It was a beautiful day for a picturesque wedding looking out over the pond and the treeline. Guests sat on hay and many stood during the ceremony. The bride was escorted by her Dad and her step-Dad. The groomsmen wore blue jeans and cowboy boots, as did the bridesmaids. The reception was, you guessed it, BBQ! It was a great afternoon and evening with family and friends. Morgan and Sean are smitten with each other, which is always wonderful to see in younger couples. It was a great weekend spent catching up with uncles and aunts and cousins! My prayer is that God will continue to strengthen their relationship and draw them ever closer to Himself as they journey together through marriage.

Shotgun Wedding?? Not really but the dads thought it was funny!

Papa Larry and Charlotte with some of the wedding cake!

My beautiful wife finally agreed to take a picture with me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Thoughts

As I celebrated Easter this week, I was reminded of the pain of loss, the sacrifices that have been made for me. I was also struck by the inability we have as humans to really market the empty tomb. I was continually drawn to some quotes from Jurgen Moltmann and Frederick Buechner about the cross and the empty tomb. I was drawn to the accounts of the death of Christ and the resurrection, for they are the key to our faith as Christians, yet the gospel writers seem to lack a uniformity, perhaps because their own story shines through their accounts of the miracle of the resurrection. Ultimately, Easter leaves us knowing that something great happened on that morning in the garden with the empty tomb, something that in many ways is beyond description, words, and categories...God's love is perhaps the best way we have of putting a label on it. THANKS BE TO GOD!